Once again, Oliver Twist is in the news: Rolling Stone has an update on the upcoming remake of the Oliver! film. It will be a contemporary film "with a genre-hopping soundtrack that will of course include hip-hop." Ice Cube (who also is preparing to play Scrooge in a Christmas Carol remake) will play Fagin, and Thomas Kail -- Tony-Award-winning director of the musical Hamilton -- will direct.
As you know, I usually keep an open mind about adaptations. But I confess I feel a bit dubious about this:
"The drama, which has received a script commitment [at NBC], is described as a modern take on Dickens' second novel that was originally published as a serial in the 1830s. Twist's logline is as follows: A sexy contemporary take on Oliver Twist with a struggling 20-something female (Twist) who finally finds a true sense of family in a strange group of talented outcasts who use their unique skills to take down wealthy criminals."
The Telegraphhas some praise for last night's season 1 finale of Dickensian, and for the show in general -- but not quite so much praise for BBC One, which "passed [it] around the schedule like an unwanted orphan." The article is spoilery, although if you're familiar with the plots of Bleak House, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist, it shouldn't be TOO spoilery.
In The Guardian, Stephen Moss writes about how the new show makes him want to start reading Dickens again. Some of his compliments to the author are a bit backhanded, and he really needs to start his reread with Oliver Twist, because his descriptions of the characters from memory are nothing like the actual characters. He actually thinks of Bill Sikes as a "comedy villain," for instance. (I'm guessing he's more familiar with Oliver! the musical than Oliver the novel.) However, his praise of the show is sincere and his desire to go back to Dickens an excellent sign. "Only [Tony] Jordan has made me want to return to the books and immerse myself in Dickens’ imaginative world again," he writes. I hope the same will be true of many more viewers.
Poemsby Charles Dickens (Alma Classics Ltd., 2013 edition).
This is a reprinted edition of a collection first published in 1903, "edited with commentaries by F. G. Kitton." It consists mostly of song lyrics and light verse taken from Dickens's plays, librettos, and books, along with a few "political squibs" and one or two poems written for friends. Kitton's commentaries are interesting and informative, although rather limited in scope -- one can't help wishing that as long as Alma Classics was reprinting the volume, they could have added some updated material on the poems, along with the new biographical sketch at the end.
As for the poems themselves, they are, well, average. The rhyme and meter are fine, the word choices are fine, and the political poems in particular are flavored with the biting wit that social and political issues tended to bring out in Dickens. But it's deeply ironic that, for a writer whose prose was often so lyrical and beautiful as to seem downright poetic, Dickens proved to be merely adequate at the task of writing actual poems. Despite the occasional flashes of cleverness or insight, there's little here that is truly inspiring or memorable. The collection is worth reading for the Dickens completist, but ultimately it has to be admitted that, as a poet, Dickens was one heck of a novelist.
What if the newly redeemed Scrooge had remained so constantly filled with Christmas cheer all year long that people started to consider him a pain in the neck? Furthermore, what if Scrooge had decided to try to redeem his old friend Jacob Marley as well? Bestselling author Charlie Lovett tackles these questions in this delightful little novella. He cleverly incorporates, paraphrases, and repurposes much of Dickens's own phrasing from A Christmas Carol and various other works, in this story that sees a turned-around Scrooge turning the tables on many familiar (and now slightly jaded) figures from the original book. Well written, thought-provoking, and great fun.