Sunday, December 29, 2013

What the Dickens?

Over the past month, I've heard Dickens's name mentioned many times. Yes, it is the holiday season for which he wrote many a novella or short story so he should be named. Yet each time his name rang in my ear or ran across my mind as I read an article, it was for a different reason. I am now going to share something with my small audience of readers. My goal this year is to read ALL of  Charles Dickens's works.

I must confess, there are certain books of his that I have not yet read, such as "A Tale of Two Cities" or "Oliver Twist". Some people would be shocked to hear this. I don't care. I am coming out of my depraved status and choosing to have a scholarly year of Dickens. I have only read two books by Dickens; "Great Expectations" and "A Christmas Carol". Many people and works refer to Dickens as being the king of character sketches or of plot. Other references admire him for being a tireless writer often overworking himself. Other people do not like him because of the life he lead and because of what transpired between he and his wife. To be honest, I want to read his works only for the writing, the complexity of his plot and characters, not admiring him for the life that he lead.

Last night I read an article that appeared a few weeks ago in the Boston Globe about Dickens's visit to Lowell during his 1842 visit to America. In addition to looking at the cleanliness of the Lowell Mills and the city itself, he may have borrowed some aspects of a few stories written by the anonymous mill girls in their literary magazine called, "The Lowell Offering" and used them in his own work "A Christmas Carol".

In the month of November, a new book came out from Donna Tartt called "The Goldfinch". She cited Dickens as being her inspiration for her character driven plot that has mesmerized the critics. Over the next year I hope to read her novel as I have not yet read it. I find it interesting that authors who are writing today are still using Dickens as a model of great literature when there are more contemporary authors who they can use.

Now for the part that really hit home with me and showed me that maybe I should read all of Dickens. Upon opening a new book (graciously borrowed from my well-read aunt), Irving's "In One Person" has a main character, Billy. He relates to his reader that the reason he became a writer was because of "Great Expectations". He alliterates to the clumsiness in Dickens's early years as a writer by comparing his texts. I hope to be able to gain perspective that will allow me to come to my own conclusions.

These three coincidences, along with the impending movie release called "The Invisible Woman" based on Claire Tomalin's book sharing the same name. The book speculates that Dickens had an extramarital affair with Ellen Ternan, an actress who was chosen for his play, "The Frozen Deep".

For the above reasons, I am choosing to read all of Dickens's works in chronological order and writing about them here on my blog. It is a huge task to do this as some of these works are above 500 pages. Wish me luck. So here we go... Beginning with "The Pickwick Papers".

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