Dickens at Christmas – Dodger

9780062009494_p0_v1_s260x420In the spirit of Christmas – past, present, and future – I am reading a little Charles Dickens on Christmas Day through the clever mystery of Terry Pratchett’s Dodger.  Set in Victorian England, Patchett channels the master storyteller Dickens and his charming fictional rogue, Dodger in an adventure to rescue a damsel in distress.

Inspired by the Charles Dickens display at the Morgan Library in New York City, and prompted by a review in the Washington Post sent by a good friend who shared the outing, I ordered Dodger from my library and it appeared just in time for Christmas reading.  Although listed as a book for older children, adults who know the literary and political references will appreciate the nuances.  Back to reading for me – and Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Related:

  1. The Morgan Library Exhibits
  2. Washington Post Book World Review of “Dodger”

Happy 200th Birthday, Charles Dickens

All of Dickens’s major works (except The Christmas Carol) were originally published in weekly or monthly installments – like waiting breathlessly for the next episode of Downton Abbey.   Most of us have read or seen one of Dickens’s stories, but if his birthday inspires you to revisit his classics, his biographer Claire Tomalin suggests starting with David Copperfield, Dickens’s own “favorite child.”   Oprah’s pick was A Tale of Two Cities, and Ralph Fiennes with Helena Bonham Carter will soon be in a remake of Great Expectations.   

 With over 90 biographies of the prolific author,  Robert Douglas-Fairhurst just added to the list; Becoming Dickens focuses on Dickens’s early life and has the flavor of a good dissertation.    A better story might be Claire Tomalin’s The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens (1991) – about 45 year-old married Dickens’s affair with an 18-year-old actress.

To commemorate the day, I’m reading The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford.  Although Standiford includes the requisite background of Dickens as a poor boy in a boot blacking factory, he quickly fast forwards to how Dickens became a writer.  The focus has The Christmas Carol saving his writing career; the “judicious edits” and concern over small details – like the end papers – will endear him to any writer.  The not so well-known aftermath of the piracy of his story, and the unsatisfactory court litigation is balanced by Dickens’s delight that it was so well received by readers.  Noting that  “if every copy were destroyed today, it could be rewritten tomorrow, so many know the story by heart,” Standiford journies through what may have been Dickens’s inspiration in the writing, and then follows through with a short reflection on the rest of Dickens’s life and subsequent writing.

Charles Dickens wrote 4 more Christmas stories after the success of A Christmas Carol, but none as well known, or as effective at relaying “the enduring themes: the deleterious effects of ignorance and want, the necessity for charity, the benefits of goodwill, family, unity, and the need for celebration of the life force, including the pleasures of good food and drink, and good company.

…It is a mark of Dickens’s genius that we return eagerly to his hopeful vision – millions of us now – year and year.  And vow to do the best we can.”

So – Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens, and thanks.