David Denby of The New Yorker confesses to going 50 years without reading Dickens, largely out of fear that the books wouldn't hold up to his recollections of them. But now he's gone back to them -- and let us all be thankful for it, because it resulted in this lovely piece. Here's a sample:
At last, after many resolutions abandoned, I read “Great Expectations” and fell into a happiness granted rarely to any reader. . . . What I had forgotten was Dickens’s joy in writing, which he shares with the reader. You are rooting for him to take chances, to score, to go for it, to reach for the seemingly irrelevant detail, the louche metaphor. He exhibits so exuberant and generous a degree of writerly candor and companionability that the reader is always loyal to him: this man is happily working to entertain us. The nastiness, which comes more frequently than his reputation would lead you to expect, is itself an aspect of his generosity to the living world. George Orwell remarked in an essay on Dickens, from 1939, that though Dickens had attacked the entire British establishment (law, parliament, nobility, educational system, etc.), no one was personally mad at him. It was almost universally felt that his malice was the underside of his love of sunshine and good people; his rage has as much excited life to it as his celebration of decency and loyalty.