Happy Valentine's Day, fellow Dickensians! Bas Bleu Bookseller's blog, The Bluestocking Salon, has included a Dickens quote on their list of "Literary Words of Love," and it's a good one. Go here to see which one they picked!
Heartfelt thanks to Colin Dickey, whose essay in The New Republic (excerpted from the book Scratch, edited by Manjula Martin) debunks the egregious Dickens-was-paid-by-the-word myth -- which needs to be as debunked as often and as loudly as possible, considering how pervasive it is. Not only that, but Dickey shows one major reason why it's so egregious: "Once I’d formed this picture of Dickens in my mind, it became an easy way to discount his novels as superfluous."
Definitely worthy of the Dickensblog Order of Merit!
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."