Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 7, 2012, Celebrate the Bicentenary of Charles Dickens

    File:Charles Dickens 1868.jpg      
Passing by one of our numerous bookshelves the other day, my husband asked how many books I had read.  Stupefied, I inquired, “In my whole life?”  He nodded.  “Thousands!” I said.
“Well, which is your favorite?”
With no hesitation, I said, “A Tale of Two Cities.  Dickens.  I’ve read it five times.  There isn’t another book I’ve willingly read more than once.”
Perhaps it was easier to become a famous author in Dickens’ day, when it took almost 70 years for 60,000 novels to be published.  In our modern era of infinite numbers of words being published in gazillions of hardcovers, paperbacks, and e-books (okay, I exaggerate: according to Time Magazine it was only 30,000 in the U.S. last year) most people can still name at least two Dickens characters: Scrooge and Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol.  Many more are almost as famous, even to non-readers who only watch PBS: Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, and Oliver Twist. 
Charles Dickens started writing in installments: the serials.  He knew how to grab his audience, how to keep his readers interested, and how to furnish them an appropriate conclusion.  He invented unforgettable characters.  He painted vivid pictures of his society and his times.  He wrote regularly, every day—and he wrote to make money.  He had all the modern concerns of “building his platform.”  I think he would have been at home in this age of social media and showmanship as part of being a successful writer. 
In Chatham, England, there is Dickens World; I think he would be pleased.
I can invent no greater tribute to the Inimitable Mr. Dickens than the fact that people all over the world still read, and re-read, his books 132 years after his death.  I expect people will still be reading Dickens at his tricentenary on February 7, 2112.
Question: Do you read Dickens?  It was pointed out to me that he was paid by the word.  Is his writing too slow and wordy for the modern reader?  Are you familiar with his books, or only the video adaptations of his work?

1 comment:

Abbie Taylor said...

From Abbie Taylor

I must admit I'm one of those modern readers that thinks Charles Dickens' writing is too slow and wordy. I read Dickens when I was in high school but only because I had to. I actually enjoyed Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, and I've seen stage and screen adaptations of these stories, but I doubt I'll read any more of his work. In a couple of centuries, maybe people will think the same thing about my writing.