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Drood - Dan Simmons

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Has anyone read this yet? I just finished this weekend and absolutely loved every word of it. I'll preface this by saying I'm a huge Dan Simmons fan, and I'm constantly amazed at how easily he floats between genres.

Drood is a wonderful book. Dark, creepy, thought-provoking, evocative, the whole nine yards. I think I enjoyed it more than the Terror, which I enjoyed very much. Anyway, just wondering if anyone else has read this.
 

KESpires

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It's written by Dickens's opium addicted buddy I think =)

I'm halfway through Olympos. Simmons is a literary god.
 

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yeah, it's narrated by Wilkie Collins, and discusses the last five years of Charles Dicken's life, after the Staplehurst accident. Wilkie likes to hit the laudanum pretty hard. The book has actually inspired me to check out some more Dickens (who I've only barely read) and Collins (who I've never read).

And I agree with KESpires, Simmons is unreal.
 

KESpires

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I believe, from reading Simmons's comments on his site, that Collins is almost infantile in his writing in comparison to Dickens. He thinks that such comparisons, mostly made by Collins himself, drove the man to take "enough laudanum to kill a roomful of men on a daily basis."

I'm planning on checking out the book. I've got to finish Olympos first.
 

AE35Unit

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I've only read 2 Dickens books,A Christmas Carol which is more than just what the title would suggest,and Oliver Twist,one of the greatest of tales!
I once had the complete works on my shelf,a collection of green leatherette books,which i later sold to my brother! Anyone else had that set?
 

thepaladin

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Read Drood, not bad. I have some issues and found both good and bad points in it. To go further however will require spoilers...do we want to talk about it in depth?
 

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You know I just had a read about this book,it sounds interesting.
Drood by Dan Simmons
Also there was a series of programmes recently about steam locos in britain and one program told about the train accident that had a profound effect on Dickens.
Also did anyone see the dramatisation of The Signalman that was shown? I recorded it but have yet to watch it. Might put that right once I get the kids to bed!
 

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paladin, i'd like to talk about it in depth, maybe we just preface things with the word SPOILER?
 

j d worthington

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I believe, from reading Simmons's comments on his site, that Collins is almost infantile in his writing in comparison to Dickens. He thinks that such comparisons, mostly made by Collins himself, drove the man to take "enough laudanum to kill a roomful of men on a daily basis."
I like Simmons' work (what I've read of it), but this comment (assuming it to actually represent his views) simply makes the man look like a fool. I've read a fair amount of both, and each has his strengths and weaknesses. As for the laudanum comment... Collins' last stories were affected by the laudanum, as well as his health problems which began his addiction to laudanum in the first place; but he wrote many fine tales -- both novels and shorter works -- in his career, quite a few of which are classics of the period, and certainly classics of the mystery and weird genres. And, as mentioned, like De Quincey, it was severe health problems which resulted in Collins' addiction, not the other way around -- and certainly not any jealousy of Dickens (or anyone else).

Dickens' own opinion of Collins was rather high, on the whole, as was his view of Bulwer (another very popular writer of the period, whom it is now quite fashionable to ridicule, far beyond what he does, at times, merit).

I'd suggest reading Collins' The Moonstone, The Woman in White, The Dead Secret, and the collection Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (ed. by Herbert van Thal) for a good taste of his work. Even his final long tale, The Haunted Hotel, though wobbly in spots, has much to recommend it, and shows Collins was far from bereft of his powers even on his deathbed...

EDIT: A correction -- that should be Blind Love, which was left unfinished at his death (it was completed by Walter Besant). The Haunted Hotel was written over ten years before that....
 
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KESpires

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I like Simmons' work (what I've read of it), but this comment (assuming it to actually represent his views) simply makes the man look like a fool. I've read a fair amount of both, and each has his strengths and weaknesses. As for the laudanum comment... Collins' last stories were affected by the laudanum, as well as his health problems which began his addiction to laudanum in the first place; but he wrote many fine tales -- both novels and shorter works -- in his career, quite a few of which are classics of the period, and certainly classics of the mystery and weird genres. And, as mentioned, like De Quincey, it was severe health problems which resulted in Collins' addiction, not the other way around -- and certainly not any jealousy of Dickens (or anyone else).

Dickens' own opinion of Collins was rather high, on the whole, as was his view of Bulwer (another very popular writer of the period, whom it is now quite fashionable to ridicule, far beyond what he does, at times, merit).

I'd suggest reading Collins' The Moonstone, The Woman in White, The Dead Secret, and the collection Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (ed. by Herbert van Thal) for a good taste of his work. Even his final long tale, The Haunted Hotel, though wobbly in spots, has much to recommend it, and shows Collins was far from bereft of his powers even on his deathbed...

EDIT: A correction -- that should be Blind Love, which was left unfinished at his death (it was completed by Walter Besant). The Haunted Hotel was written over ten years before that....
It is possible that I misjudged Simmons's take on Collins's actual writing skill. However, this is the passage that I took my assessment on the book's plot from.

This is from Simmons's site:

The conceit of DROOD is that the novel is actually a long manuscript written by Charles Dickens’s actual, historical one-time friend and former collaborator Wilkie Collins – a manuscript written up into the 1880’s to be read only “approximately a century and a quarter after my death.” In it, Wilkie reveals “the truth” about Dickens’s bizarre last five years from the time of the terrible railway accident Dickens was in on 9 June, 1865, to the moment of Dickens’s death exactly five years later in 1870. The descriptions of the train accident were historically accurate; the descriptions of Dickens’s increasingly erratic behavior and obsessions in the next five years were historically accurate (Dickens gave up writing and eventually began hundreds of public readings, amazingly powerful performances unlike any “readings” that we would hear from any author today, and readings that were climaxed by the gory and terrible “MURDER of Nancy” that made scores of women in the audience faint and men leave the theater on wobbly legs.)
For Wilkie’s narration, think of “Salieri” in Peter Schaffer’s play Amadeus. The frustrations to a mediocre artist in the presence of true genius – think of Dickens as Wilkie’s “Mozart” – truly can drive mediocrity to madness. And the trustworthiness of Wilkie’s narration isn’t helped by the historical fact that, for decades, Wilkie Collins was a powerful laudanum addict, drinking enough of the opium tincture each day (according to one of his doctor acquaintances) that the amount would kill an entire roomful of men.
Between the opium and attempts at mesmerism, between a fellow writer’s artistic envy and former close friend’s personal jealousy, between the pain of knowing for a certainty that one’s name and work will be forgotten a century hence even while an all-too-fallible competitor’s work will probably live forever – which parts of Wilkie’s tale are a function of drug-addled madness and which parts are real revelations of Dickens’s strange last years?
What made the writing of DROOD even more fun was the personal challenge I set for myself to abide by historically actual dates, biographical accuracy for all characters involved, actual letters, and accuracy even in small details for almost every moment chronicled of those mysterious five years up to Dickens’s death (and a little beyond.) This was my version of playing fictional tennis with a net and I used the same rules in my work on THE TERROR.


ENDQUOTE
 

thepaladin

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SPOILERS

Well as we follow the action I think Simmons's intent was to try and leave some doubt as to what Collins was actually going through, though I don't think that in Simmons's mind there was actually any doubt. We get Dickens atributing the problems he "spots" in Wilkie to a combination of "mesmerism" and Collins's "writer's imagination". The laudenum is of course the real story. We get a ring side side seat to the decay of Collins' mind and the history of the "rot". (The green woman, the other Wilki etc.)

One of the things about the book to watch for (I think) is to catch the difference in Simmons's attitude toward Dickens and then Collins' as interperted by Simmons.
 

j d worthington

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It's an interesting conceit (and I like his choice of that word for it -- very appropriate to both the period and the technique); but I fear his own obvious disparagement of Collins (whose work has by no means been forgotten even today) rather gets in the way of his being an accurate "medium" for the "spirit" of the man in any way. I'm afraid I see the same thing happen far too often with modern (especially popular) writers who attempt to take on the voice of an earlier writer -- they either manage to make a complete mockery of the attempt, fools of themselves, or a combination of both (in most cases, at least).

A part of this is the simple amount of intense research, including reading and rereading not only of that writer's work, but their letters, any published diaries (or those available in collections for study), memoirs by those who knew the person, business correspondence both by and relating to his/her work (as well as personal accounts within such correspondence), and so on. There is also the simple difficulty of capturing the Weltanschauung of that person, being able to accurately reflect their interior and their particular idiom as well as that of the time. Each of these is a tremendous difficulty to overcome, and such a task should only be undertaken if one is willing to either put in the work necessary (including adapting a sympathetic -- in the original meaning of the term -- approach to the subject) or be willing to be torn apart for failing to do so and letting one's own prejudices and biases distort the narrative voice.

I think, too, his choice of an example -- Schaffer's portrayal of Salieri -- is a telling point, as this representation was about as inaccurate concerning the composer as Simmons' is of the writer he has chosen as his narrator. A tour de force it may be, but I'm afraid it's one that anyone who has read Collins with any attention is likely to find insufferably inane. Frankly, considering those pieces of Simmons' I have read, I'd have given him credit for more sense than this. At the very least, it displays a woefully one-sided view of both Collins and Dickens and the relationship between them, both personally and artistically....

(Again, this is based on the statements included above. If I read the novel, I may find he did a better job than I suspect to be the case; but based on the above, I'm afraid I'm less than sanguine about such an outcome....)
 

KESpires

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Well, I think his comment about being forgotten in a century is accurate. Almost every schoolchild learns about Charles Dickens. You have to grow up and take the initiative to do your own research to ever discover Wilkie Collins. However good he may have been, he wasn't good enough to gain the stature and longevity that Dickens gained.

I think I might read something by Collins. To be honest though, I'll probably never get around to it. There are too many books to read and WAY too little time.
 

thepaladin

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Collins is interesting yet a little odd. And, if I may say so without offending, I'd have tagged them somewhat "chickbook-ish" if you know what I mean by that, not a critisim, just heavy on romantic themes....for me that is.
 

j d worthington

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Well, I think his comment about being forgotten in a century is accurate. Almost every schoolchild learns about Charles Dickens. You have to grow up and take the initiative to do your own research to ever discover Wilkie Collins. However good he may have been, he wasn't good enough to gain the stature and longevity that Dickens gained.
Not quite, no. But he is far from having been forgotten. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are almost perpetually in print, continue to sell relatively well (quite well for books of that period), are still considered high points in the genre, and continue to garner comments from new readers. Several of his shorter tales are also almost constantly in print in anthologies and the like, especially "A Terribly Strange Bed" and "The Dream Woman" -- the latter being one of the archetypal handlings of the fatal attraction of the premonitory dream, often imitated.

Granted, Collins isn't known "by every schoolchild"'; but then, how many nonetheless popular writers who continue to be read long after they are gone are so known? Only those accepted into the major literary canon tend to get such recognition. Marlowe doesn't even get this in most cases; and Samuel Johnson is usually only known by name. Yet, as noted, Collins, along with these others, is still read and known today, both by general readers and by afficionadoes of the field.

I'm sorry, but that statement still smacks far too much of a very narrow, even blinkered, view of literature on the part of Simmons, given such continued attraction for new readers on the part of Collins.

As a contrast -- how many people know the name of Henry James... yet how many people actually read his work these days? (This is not meant as disrespect to James, whose work is well worth the effort; it is simply noting that the fact that a writer's name is well known, and even that his work is part of a curriculum, is no indication of how viable he remains to the reading public per se.)

Dickens, of course, has the best of both worlds, as he has been accepted by the literary fraternity wholeheartedly (well, relatively so...) and has retained a popular following, in no little part aided by continuing adaptations of his work to film, theatre, and television.

Speaking of which, here is the listing at imdb for adaptations of Collins' work:

Wilkie Collins (I)

He, too, has had a reasonable share of attention from the various visual media....

Paladin -- I can see where you're coming from, given the romantic element in many of Collins' works; but that is quite common in the novels of the period, whether by greater or lesser luminaries in the literary field. His work was (rightly, I think) known as "thrillers" or "suspense novels" in its time, and his ability to weave an atmosphere of the eerie and supernatural, even with a naturalistic tale, remains quite impressive.

He was also considerably more subtle than one would gather from Simmons' comments, as he could, with a few deft touches, add layer upon layer of interpretation and ambiguity to the incidents in his work, hinting at a much larger scope to which the incidents he presents are as the detail seen within a glass, but which present broader implications to the thought than is seen with the eye. This is most easily discerned in The Woman in White, where the titular figure hovers like a restless spirit over the entire novel, from her first appearance to the final lines, whether she is a living presence or not. She serves quite well as a presence hovering between the real and unreal worlds, and brings a breath of regions beyond which expands the actual events of the novel to the truly sublime.

However, Collins does demand attentive reading to catch such layering; a casual or careless reading of his work misses a great deal that is there, and may in fact produce a certain confusion concerning aspects of his various tales which, with such a careful reading, reveal a much closer connection than a mere surface reading allows.

To return to the point made above: A further member of this group, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, was indeed forgotten for many years -- it wasn't until well into the last century that his work began to become once more readily available; yet he has long been regarded as one of, if not the greatest master of the ghostly tale outside of M. R. James (and James considered himself to be something of a student of Le Fanu). Again, this demonstrates the fallacy of such a view as Simmons puts forth (though the idea that Collins himself may have harbored such fears is not an unreasonable one; most writers who care about their work do, at various points). There is a world of difference between the writers who are touted in the educational curriculum and those whose work is itself remembered; and Collins definitely falls within the latter class....
 

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I hadn't read that Simmons quote, but just from reading Drood I did not get the impression that he was trying to insult Collins' ability at all.

Possible Spoilers

It seemed to me that he was using Wilkie's increasing reliance on laudanum and a normal sense of competitiveness any genius will have, especially one working alongside a more well-known genius, as a means of relaying the story through a more and more unreliable narrator, and giving the reader the uncertainty on whether things being discussed are actually happening, or the mad ravings of a jealous opium addict. I actually think Simmons was interested in increasing Collins' readership. Just about every novel and play the man wrote must've been mentioned at least 2 or 3 times. I will certainly be checking out some of Collins work for the first time after reading Drood. But that's just a feeling I got reading the book. Nothing seemed mean-spirited towards Wilkie to me.
 

KESpires

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I wonder though, because in the quote he says that jealously can drive mediocrity to madness.

So he may have respect for Collins, he still however, according to the quote at least, feels that compared to Dickens, Collins was mediocre.

I haven't read Collins, so I can't say. But I do stick to the assertion that, as far as fame and stature goes, most folks--maybe I should say most folks who read--know who Dickens is. I'd wager that most folks don't know very many other authors from that particular period. I'm including myself in that category. It seems, whether by time limitations or just willpower, I only get around to reading the authors from any given time period who are touted as "great" and usually only then if I feel that I have something to learn from them.

I'll get around to reading Drood and from that I'll probably get around to reading at least one of Collins's works. But if it weren't for Simmons writing Drood I would have remained unaware of Wilkie Collins. That might be my loss, but it is certainly true.
 

thepaladin

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He hits Collis pretty hard...the hints of some weaknees early in life, not only argravated by his drug use but maybe leading to it. Collins books are still around, not bad.
 

Connavar

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I know Wilkie Collins by name cause i think i have read his name mentioned along other famous 19th century writers. I have also seen his books in the classic lit shelf.

I do wonder if Simmons is really this ignorant about Collins being weaker writer just because he isnt as mainstream and as popular as Dickens. There are writers who are seen as more important in the same field who arent half as known as him.
 
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