In the Boston Globe, Kevin Hartnett updates his account of the Lowell textile workers who impressed and inspired Dickens. Sadly, their story took a turn that might be described as . . . well, Dickensian.
Donna Tartt's new novel, The Goldfinch, is earning comparisons to Dickens. His "spirit hovers over this book like a guardian angel," says reviewer Kevin Nance. It's no wonder, for Tartt tells an interviewer, "I read so much Dickens when I was a kid growing up that those books are more inside me now than they are outside me."
. . . as do Austen and Chekhov and other greats. According to a new study, reading great literature can better equip you to both understand your own emotions, and empathize with other people. More information is here and here.
Okay, that's a harsh and unfair generalization. But it got your attention, right?
And that's precisely what I really hate: a certain attention-grabbing mentality that's popular among the media. For instance, when they have a story about a new book on Francis Dickens, Charles Dickens's son who went to Canada. Most of them figure that they can't just say "there's a new book about Francis Dickens"; that's not sensationalistic enough. That won't get hits.
So they say things like "Charles Dickens wasn't a great father" and "Charles Dickens was one of England's most-respected writers during the 19th century, but he wasn't much of a father." Because, again, it wouldn't be sensationalistic enough to say "Charles Dickens was a very flawed but very loving father," which would be much closer to the truth. Or even "Charles Dickens had high expectations of his children, but that's not necessarily a bad thing." That would be way too much nuance and complexity.
So I guess the moral of the story is, if you're famous enough to be written about two centuries from now, don't dare have any expectations of your children, or the press will have to haul you over the coals for it. And pun on the titles of your books as they do it.