Novelist and Dickens biographer Jane Smiley has a marvelous article in The Atlantic, in which she talks about one particular sentence in Our Mutual Friend and how it represents to her some of the best aspects of the art of novel writing.
Congratulations to Kenia Coyoy and Karen Molina, high school students from Los Angeles who won trips to Dickens Universe with their essays on Our Mutual Friend! They're the first students from their school district to win the essay contest, and this fall, each will be the first member of their respective families to go to college. Says Karen, "I hope people see that Hispanic children from South L.A. can not only read Dickens but relate to it and become one with the literature."
Here's a fun tidbit from the London Particular (the Dickens Fellowship Newsletter), submitted by Dr. Christine Corton: An episode of the British TV series Endeavour, titled "Neverland,"showed Morse, the main character, entering a firm of solicitors called "Vholes, Jaggers and Lightwood." Looks like they've got a Dickensian on the writing staff!
"If you're a horse and you're going to be named after a Charles Dickens character, chances are you're going to be named after a notorious villain," speculates Ben Linfoot at SportingLife.com. Linfoot is writing about a horse named Uriah Heep, so I can see why he might think that. But I think Tommy Traddles would make a nice horse's name as well. Or Jenny Wren. Or Newman Noggs . . .
If you're on Twitter, you might enjoy subscribing to Our Mutual Feed! Here's the scoop on how it started, and how you can become a participant. This started a while back, but they might still have one or two characters left for people to take on. This is based on a Dickens novel, after all.
"Betimes next morning, that horrible old Lady Tippins (relict of the late Sir Thomas Tippins, knighted in mistake for somebody else by His Majesty King George the Third, who, while performing the ceremony, was graciously pleased to observe, 'What, what, what? Who, who, who? Why, why, why?') begins to be dyed and varnished for the interesting occasion. She has a reputation for giving smart accounts of things, and she must be at these people's early, my dear, to lose nothing of the fun. Whereabout in the bonnet and drapery announced by her name, any fragment of the real woman may be concealed, is perhaps known to her maid; but you could easily buy all you see of her, in Bond Street; or you might scalp her, and peel her, and scrape her, and make two Lady Tippinses out of her, and yet not penetrate to the genuine article. She has a large gold eye-glass, has Lady Tippins, to survey the proceedings with. If she had one in each eye, it might keep that other drooping lid up, and look more uniform. But perennial youth is in her artificial flowers, and her list of lovers is full." Book the First, Chapter 10
"As in its author's previous fictions, we are almost oppressed by the fulness of life which pervades the pages of this novel. Mr. Dickens has one of the most mysterious attributes of genius -- the power of creating characters which have, so to speak, an overplus of vitality, passing beyond the limits of the tale, and making itself felt like an actual, external fact. In the stories of inferior writers the characters seem to possess just sufficient personality and presence to carry on the purpose of the narrative; one never thinks of them as enjoying any existence at all outside the little tissue of events that has been woven for them. They are ghosts whom the author has evoked out of night and vacuity to perform certain definite offices within the charmed circle of the fiction to which they are attached; and when we step out of that circle at the conclusion of the ceremonies, they vanish again into nothingness, and we think no more of them. Such is not the case with the conceptions of larger geniuses. These do not seem to belong wholly to the one set of events with which they are associated, any more than the men and women we actually know present themselves to our thoughts as the puppets of a definite train of circumstances. The creations of authors such as Mr. Dickens have a life of their own. We perceive them to be full of potential capacities -- of undeveloped action. They have the substance and the freedom of actual existences; we think of what they would do under our conditions, they are possessed of a principle of growth."
I recently finished listening to this audio dramatization, available through Audible.com. It features a strong cast, including Alex Jennings as Charles Dickens himself (a role he's played before), narrating the action and weaving in and out among the characters as they go about their business. It's an interesting and effective conceit.
I wish I could say I enjoyed everything else about the program as much, but unfortunately, it had some signifcant weakenesses. There was far too little use of Dickens's own words, for one thing. I understand that a dramatization has to add, subtract, and generally change things, but even taking all that into account, I don't see why they had to use so very few of them. Nor do I understand why Eugene and Lizzie's story had to be severely truncated, and John and Bella's story badly botched. (Bella here is still torturing John almost past endurance, long after the point where book-Bella changed her ways and admitted that she loved him.) Also, there was an annoying tendency now and then to cut away from important scenes and bring the narrator in. Even if you like the narrator, that sort of thing tends to yank one abruptly and disagreeably out of the story.
I'm sorry to say it, because I had been pretty excited about this version, but I think many of my fellow OMF fans will find it, though well-produced and well-acted, far from satisfying.
The new Edwin Drood monthly readalong is underway, over at Cloisterham Tales. Hereare the first two posts. (Please take note of the NO SPOILERS rule -- I broke it once with the Tale of Two Cities readalong, and earned myself a reprimand. I don't want that to happen to the rest of you!)
And there's more: There's another new readalong, of Our Mutual Friend, going on over here! This is not an April Fool -- we've got two monthly Dickens readalongs going on at once now!