The Wire as Great Victorian Novel

A while back, W. Daniel Hillis made the case that The Wire may rise to the lev­el of – if not sur­pass – Tol­stoy’s War & Peace. Writ­ing for the, Hillis went so far as to say:

As much as I liked War and Peace, I prob­a­bly got more out of The Wire. And why should that be sur­pris­ing? More human effort can be put into a tele­vi­sion series than a nov­el and more time is spent con­sum­ing it. If both are exe­cut­ed to their high­est stan­dards, with equal care, skill and insight, we might well expect less from the book.

If we can men­tion The Wire in the same breath as Tol­stoy, then why not anoth­er giant of nine­teenth cen­tu­ry lit­er­a­ture, Charles Dick­ens? Yes, The Wire has been called “Dick­en­sian” too, and this week the Hood­ed Util­i­tar­i­an has re-imag­ined The Wire as a seri­al­ized Vic­to­ri­an nov­el. The premise? Imag­ine The Wire writ­ten in 60 install­ments over the course of six years, start­ing in 1846, by Hor­a­tio Buck­les­by Ogden, a Dick­ens con­tem­po­rary who wrote with a “nuance and atten­tion to detail that Dick­ens nev­er achieved.” Each install­ment ran 30 pages and sold for one shilling apiece.

The Hood­ed Util­i­tar­i­an has­n’t actu­al­ly print­ed these 60 install­ments (because they don’t actu­al­ly exist). But they have pro­duced a few won­der­ful mock pages, and writ­ten a faux piece of lit­er­ary crit­i­cism to accom­pa­ny them. A great job by Joy Delyr­ia and Sean Michael Robin­son.

via Boing­Bo­ing

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Comments (6)
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  • Tamaresque says:

    If it were to be pub­lished as a nov­el I’d read it. I tried watch­ing it but I could­n’t under­stand half of what was being said (I don’t live in Amer­i­ca) so I gave it up as I could­n’t fol­low what was hap­pen­ing. It seems the drug deal­ers had a lan­guage all of their own.

    • Myles says:

      That’s why sub­ti­tles exist. My wife is British. We had to stop ten min­utes into the first episode and turn them on. She loved it.

      What would you do if there were a great movie in Ger­man, or French, or any oth­er lan­guage in which you weren’t flu­ent?

    • alanleotennyson says:

      I am Irish and a flu­ent Emg­lish speak­er and found it a strug­gle. A Ger­many friend of mine (who speaks excel­lent Eng­lish) watched it with the sub­ti­tles on. This is some­thing I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend. I am also delight­ed to see the com­par­isons with War & Peace, it real­ly is a mod­ern epic and an impor­tant piece of art. TV has tru­ly come of age. But its no Anna Karen­i­na!

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