After a depressing week of learning C, during which I worked very hard and spent much time each evening rigorously working through exercises, I returned to Perl. And god, what a joy! I had put aside a problem I had been having, and then after an encouraging e-mail from Sam Tregar, whose book I found very helpful, I returned to my Perl problem and solved it within minutes.
Of course, it's still a mess; I took some octopus-like code and "improved" it by hacking off the tentacles and stuffing them in modules, so now I have my code writhing away somewhere behind the scenes. I have to learn lots more about subclassing and such to make this really effective. And, especially at this point, when I'm changing the code very frequently, the OO approach is really confusing, since it takes me more time to sort through six modules to figure out where something is happening than it did when everything was in one bloated script.
But I feel like I'm making progress.
Whether any of this is because of C is an open question.