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Old 09-29-2009, 06:58 PM   #1
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Why We Still Read Dickens (for Harry)

Ran across this in the Guardian today
Quote:
It seems that you cannot turn a corner this year without bumping into Charles Dickens. So far we've seen the release of four major novels based on the Victorian icon's life: Dan Simmons's Drood (February), Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens (March), Richard Flanagan's Wanting (May), and Gaynor Arnold's Girl in a Blue Dress (July). Earlier this year BBC1's lush new production of Little Dorrit was nominated for five Bafta awards in the UK, and 11 Emmys in the US. Newspapers and magazines have run stories on his relevance to the current global economic crisis. And with the Christmas season now only four months away, it seems that there is no getting away from him any time soon.
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Old 09-30-2009, 04:45 AM   #2
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Who is Dickens?


*hides in a corner*
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:00 AM   #3
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Quote:
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Who is Dickens?


*hides in a corner*
Bite your tongue!!!




Thanks for the link Gideon
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:01 AM   #4
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They've been re-cycling lots of the classics into TV/Movies lately. I wonder if that's because those who create those things have gotten lazy/have no vision of fresh ideas/just too dumb? There's 'remakes' everywhere!!!! OR is it that a new generation is finally appreciating the classics (just in a 21st century way)?
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:15 AM   #5
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That blog led me to another of the same posters postings discussing the best English novel of all time where he mentions Great Expectations along with MiddleMarch by George Eliot. One more addition to my reading list and one to re-read.

Last edited by kennyc; 09-30-2009 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:18 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PennyPie View Post
They've been re-cycling lots of the classics into TV/Movies lately. I wonder if that's because those who create those things have gotten lazy/have no vision of fresh ideas/just too dumb? There's 'remakes' everywhere!!!! OR is it that a new generation is finally appreciating the classics (just in a 21st century way)?
It's corporations out to make a buck. But yes I think there are perhaps fewer truly creative/gifted authors -- or we just won't know til a couple of centuries from now. Or maybe the good stuff is lost in the mess of slop being served up...
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
That blog led me to another of the same posters postings discussing the best novel of the 20th century where he mentions Great Expectations along with MiddleMarch by George Eliot. One more addition to my reading list and one to re-read.
Should that be 19th century?
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Old 09-30-2009, 06:40 AM   #8
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Should that be 19th century?
Actually it was All time, in English...



On this page: http://www.jmvarese.com/blog/

third post down.
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Old 09-30-2009, 08:05 AM   #9
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Bite your tongue!!!




Thanks for the link Gideon
You know, I was thinking something like that on monday...

There is a Dutch/Belgian tv documentary right now about Charles Darwin and his trip on the Beagle. They are following his footsteps (or should that be, his wake?). This time they were on Tenerife, and a great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin (who'll be on board the whole trip) was talking about Charles Darwin with some Portuguese guys (at least, I think they were Portuguese, it sounded like it...) and one made the remark: "Who is this Charles Darwin"...
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Old 10-01-2009, 11:33 PM   #10
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That was a great read. thanks for the link.

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Old 10-03-2009, 07:32 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PennyPie View Post
They've been re-cycling lots of the classics into TV/Movies lately. I wonder if that's because those who create those things have gotten lazy/have no vision of fresh ideas/just too dumb? There's 'remakes' everywhere!!!! OR is it that a new generation is finally appreciating the classics (just in a 21st century way)?
I think personally it's simply that a great writer remains a great writer for each new generation.

Dickens writes stories that remain wonderful to read, even if the social conditions he's describing no longer exist. There are very few writers who have ever surpassed his ability to create wonderful and "believable" characters.

He is, and always will be, my favourite author. I can read his books time and again, and find something new in them at each re-reading. That, for me, is the mark of "great literature".
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:04 AM   #12
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Since reading that article and thinking about this and checking out some other info on Dickens I'm finding him/it fascinating all over again and have kind of committed to reading and/or reading all of his work. I've started Hard Times at the moment. One thing I read says something to the effect that he is the only English writer who's novels have never gone out of print. I don't know if that is actually true or not, but it seems very likely.

It seems to me there are three things that make him so popular.

1) he writes about the human condition - things we all feel/fear/are familiar with
2) he creates amazingly interesting characters that are exaggerated but still believable.
3) he writes simply, clearly and understandably.

I'm just realizing that these same descriptions perhaps apply to Mark Twain as well another extremely popular writer.

Last edited by kennyc; 10-03-2009 at 08:06 AM. Reason: typo, clarification
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Old 10-04-2009, 04:57 AM   #13
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I am sorry to say that I've never read any of Dickens' novels - not even at school. From Kennyc's description it may be something I need to remedy even if only to look back at life as it was in that century.

The life described by Charles Reade in his 1861 novel "The Cloister and the Hearth", although set in the 15th century, I found fascinating...
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Old 10-04-2009, 05:25 AM   #14
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One of many, many strong points to Dickens' work, I reckon, is that he originally wrote in serial form for newspapers -- so not a single chapter/episode could be allowed to drag in the least; every thread had to be left intriguingly dangling to keep readers buying by the edition. Then, when the novels were compiled in book form, that feeling of 'never a dull moment' made them hugely popular.

Also, there's the question of breaking new ground: Although Shakespeare could also create superb characters, Dickens was one of the first fiction-writers to present believable folks against a backdrop of stark realism and to tell stories of the poor warts-n-all.

As Kenny says, there are many similarities to Mark Twain, who shared uncanny observation, keen attention to research, informality with his reader, deep and rare sympathy with and for his fellow man, courage in the face of middle-class convention ... and -- let's not forget -- razor sharp wit. Dickens and Twain opened the door to all that happened in 20th century literature. And maybe few have ever come close to matching them.

Cheers. Neil
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Old 10-04-2009, 05:53 AM   #15
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One of many, many strong points to Dickens' work, I reckon, is that he originally wrote in serial form for newspapers -- so not a single chapter/episode could be allowed to drag in the least; every thread had to be left intriguingly dangling to keep readers buying by the edition. Then, when the novels were compiled in book form, that feeling of 'never a dull moment' made them hugely popular.
While that's generally true, I think it was a weakness in 'The Pickwick Papers'; where it seems that he kept chucking in chapters that had nothing to do with the story - presumably the imminent deadline made him use stuff he already had to hand.

I used to regard 'Pickwick' as my favourite Dickens, but a rereading a few years ago made me aware that these chapters were serious flaws in the book.
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