Joseph Luzzi, author of the new book In a Dark Wood, offers five recommended reads, one of which is A Tale of Two Cities: ". . . We are in Dickens Land, where story and imagination reign supreme, and where we are led onward by the most large-hearted of guides."
And here's a list from 2014 that I missed at the time: Kathryn Schulz's list of "The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature." Number 4 is the colon in the first sentence of A Christmas Carol: ". . . This sentence is insane, or anyway destined to foment insanity in the grammatically prissy. It has death, a dangling participle, and a wonderfully garrulous narrator with some kind of unmentionable Victorian-era disease: wandering colon. It is great."
. . . Well, only figuratively. (But it makes a good post title, doesn't it?) I'm referring to an article by Frances Wilson in the New Statesmanabout "vampiric writers" -- a vampiric writer being one who "one who sinks his, or her, fangs into the flesh of another writer, and in so doing gives him or her a second life as a fictional figure." Wilson argues that Stephen Jarvis does this to Charles Dickens in his novel Death and Mr. Pickwick, accusing Jarvis of both "demonising" and "dehumanising" Dickens.
Well, I've sent for a review copy of Jarvis's novel, so we shall see . . .
Just when we were trying to make nice with the Trollopians. . . . Here's Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker: "Trollope is that rare thing: a strong writer with a trustworthy imagination. Dickens is a far greater sentence shaper, but his view of the world is a poet’s, painted in violent and unnatural colors."
"In 1847, an English cleaning woman was extremely excited to learn that the boy lodging in her employer’s house was 'the son of the man that put together Dombey' — that is, the son of Charles Dickens. The woman could neither read nor write, but she lived above a snuff shop where, on the first Monday of every month, a community of friends would gather to read aloud the latest installment of 'Dombey and Son,' which had begun serialization on Oct. 1, 1846. By that time, the monthly installments of Dickens’s novels — which started with 'The Pickwick Papers' in 1836 — were such a staple of British culture that an illiterate woman with no access to the actual book knew the author’s work intimately."
Hillary Kelly, The Washington Post
Read the rest of Kelly's article -- which focuses on the technique and the possible future of serialization -- here. And here's a discussion question: If illiterate cleaning ladies were huge fans of Dickens back when he was writing, why is it that literate and educated high schoolers have such trouble understanding him today? Is it just that the uneducated people of his own time understood the cultural references better? Or is there more to it? (The common phenomenon of high schoolers hating Dickens at first sight came up again in conversation recently, which is why it's on my mind.)
As today is both Shakespeare's birthday and St. George's Day, the Irish Timestook the opportunity to celebrate English writers -- including, of course, Dickens! Writer Eileen Battersby refers to Shakespeare and Dickens as "a formidable pairing."
Matthew Beaumont's new book, Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, includes a section on Dickens, who, as we know, loved his night walks like few people before or since. Flavorwire has an excerpt from the book, explaining how "it was in the streets at night, and among its strange folk, that he sought the solution not only to the riddle of the modern city but to his own inscrutable, often secretive, existence."
The title of Laura Freeman's recent article in the Telegraph, "How Charles Dickens stopped me from starving myself to death," is slightly misleading. It wasn't just Dickens whose writing about food made this anorexic young woman realize that "food could be a pleasure"; it was also Siegfried Sassoon, Thomas Hardy, Marcel Proust, and several other writers. However, Dickens was one of those who played a part in her recovery, and that makes perfect sense -- he always had a special gift for writing about the simple joys and pleasures of life, and making them sound extra appealing.
In short, as Freeman puts it, "Never readCharles Dickens without a well-stocked larder. His novels can make a reader very hungry."