Posts Tagged ‘Dickens’

You had me at ‘Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens’

September 7, 2017 @ 4:27 pm | Filed under: Chesterton & Dickens

Have you seen the trailer for The Man Who Invented Christmas yet?

Dan Stevens (aka Matthew Crawley) as struggling writer, Charles Dickens. HELLO. Also Miriam Margolyes, Jonathan Pryce, and Christopher Plummer. Best of all, characters who “won’t do what I want.” Oh Charles. I get you.

And for the record, he really IS working when he’s in there playing around with that accordion thingie.

Related, my favorite Dickens story. I mean, my favorite story about Dickens, not by him. “I distinctly want to learn more about those very dull parts.”

day 23: what the dickens

January 23, 2017 @ 9:24 am | Filed under: Books

Image source: The British Library's public domain collection. Taken from page 109 of 'Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.'

Image source: The British Library’s public domain collection. Taken from page 109 of ‘Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.’

Jamie of Light and Momentary has been sparking my desire to read more Dickens since, well, I want to say since 2004 or ’05 when I first encountered her blog. It often puzzles me that I have so many Dickens gaps in my reading history, since David Copperfield is one of my favorite books, one that actually, literally makes me cry laughing. And Tale of Two Cities, jiminy crickets what a nail-biter. Once you get past those impossible opening chapters when you, like the baffled guard, have no idea what’s going on.

“Did you hear the message?”

“I did, Joe.”

“What did you make of it, Tom?”

“Nothing at all, Joe.”

“That’s a coincidence, too,” the guard mused, “for I made the same of it myself.”

I remember reading a Neil Gaiman post a number of years back, in which he described jumpstarting an exercise habit by listening to Bleak House on audiobook:

[The book Younger Next Year] said, among other sensible things, that I should exercise for 40 minutes a day, getting my heart rate up. And I should do weights…

And I thought, But Dear God I’ll Be So Bored.

And that was when I had one of those ideas that ought to come with floating lightbulbs. I thought, Bleak House. A book I loved, but had never finished, due to always leaving it places.
I’ve been chatting to the Audible.com people about a mysterious thing I’ll announce soon, and Don Katz from Audible had shown me the Audible app and mentioned that I could now use my Amazon account to log in and buy books on Audible. So I downloaded the Audible app to my phone and to my iPod touch. I listened to samples of a dozen Bleak Houses, then plumped for the top-rated, which sounded excellent. And from that point on, most days, I did 40 minutes a day of Bleak House. And if I couldn’t do 40 minutes I’d do half an hour, or 20 minutes. I’d exercise, and I’d lose myself in Dickens, and the time would fly by.
It’s a glorious book, and perfect for an audio book…

Brilliant, I thought: I’ll do Bleak House on audio!

I’m not sure I made it through chapter two. I must not have had the same charming narrator Gaiman describes. Mine was so dull I almost dozed off on the treadmill.

Image taken from page 97 of 'Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.'

Image source: The British Library’s public domain collection. Image taken from page 97 of ‘Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.’

I’ll be teaching Great Expectations to one of my English lit classes this spring, so I’ll need to reread it soon. Dickens has, therefore, been on my mind. This morning I experienced an amusing bit of synchronicity: Jamie’s post coming lightning-quick on the heels of my own Dickens train of thought. Jamie is proposing a read-along of Martin Chuzzlewit in May:

Today I was thinking about which fat Dickens novel I’d like to re-read next, after the spring semester ends. “Martin Chuzzlewit!” I said to myself. It’s the only novel that’s partially set in the US, and its biting observations about American culture still resonate. I read it for the first time in 2001, not long after our return from two years in the UK, and I am curious to see how my memories hold up. Plus it’s an interesting time in which to reflect on outsiders’ perceptions of the wacky ways we do things here in the US…

See the rest of her post for details (and a hashtag, even). I replied with a comment so long I decided to turn it into this (even longer post).

Jamie, I’m chuckling over the timing of my seeing this post in my Feedly. It’s early morning here and I just spent an hour not reading, but rather tapping through the bazillion galleys on my Kindle, trying to decide what to read. I have the worst option paralysis when it comes to books.

Then Scott (that angel) brought me a mug of caffeinated hot cocoa and I sat up, sighing, feeling I’d wasted a precious reading hour. The thought in my head was: I’m 48. I can’t afford to waste ANY reading hours. I mean, I still haven’t gotten through all of Dickens!

Which made me remember that last year I set up DailyLit to send emails three days a week containing installments of classics I hadn’t gotten around to yet. I’ve tried DailyLit before, and what always happens is: either I get about a week into a book and then start saving the emails for later, which means never; or I get sucked into the novel and wind up abandoning the installment plan and just plain reading the book. 🙂 I read a lot of Twain that way in 2015. So this morning, about thirty seconds before I opened Feedly, I thought: maybe I should do a Dickens DailyLit project?

And then boom, your post. 🙂

I’ve never read Chuzzlewit. For that matter, I’ve never made it through Bleak House, either. I’m going to go see what Dickens is available via DailyLit because those email chunks really are a good way to get me rolling on a big reading project. (Except when they aren’t.) 😉

Your remarks on Dickens’s biting observations of American culture reminded me of the story about a very young Kate Douglas Wiggins’s biting observations of Dickens’s work–to his face. Do you remember that? Here’s an excerpt from an old post on Bonny Glen:

“Well, upon my word!” he said. “You do not mean to say that you have read them!”

“Of course I have,” I replied. “Every one of them but the two that we are going to buy in Boston, and some of them six times.”

“Bless my soul!” he ejaculated again. “Those long, thick books, and you such a slip of a thing!”

“Of course,” I explained, conscientiously, “I do skip some of the very dull parts once in a while; not the short dull parts, but the long ones.”

He laughed heartily. “Now, that is something that I hear very little about,” he said. “I distinctly want to learn more about those very dull parts…”

The full story is hilarious.

Well, it seems Martin Chuzzlewit is not available via DailyLit installments. It’s free on Kindle, though, if you’d like to join Jamie’s read-along in May. #FAMDRAL

Great Expectations isn’t a DailyLit selection, either, so I’ll have to prep for my class the old-fashioned way. But there are a number of other Dickens novels at DailyLit (see image below)—and if anyone was made for reading via daily installments, it’s Charles Dickens, prize of the periodicals.

Dickens novels available in email installments via DailyLit

 

Related post: “Snuggling Up to Genius

“The hours he spent at his desk agitated him tremendously”

February 19, 2012 @ 8:20 am | Filed under: Books

Love that guy:

Dickens was from childhood an avid, even compulsive, walker. He once wrote. “I think I must be the descendant, at no great distance, of some irreclaimable tramp.” Scarcely a day went by that Dickens didn’t flee his desk and take to the streets of London and its suburbs. He routinely walked as many as 20 miles a day, and once set out at 2 a.m. to walk from his house in London to his country residence in Gad’s Hill, Kent, 30 miles away. As several of his walking companions described it, he had a distinctive “swinging” gait. And, like many a serious runner of today, he “made a practice of increasing his speed when ascending a hill,” according to his friend Marcus Stone.

Dickens’s walks served him in two ways. On one level, they were fact-finding missions during which he recorded with his keen eye the teeming urban landscapes whose descriptions were his stock-in-trade. A letter from Paris to a family friend, the Reverend Edward Tagart, begins innocently enough, “I have been seeing Paris.” But what follows is a foot tour of the city that is characteristically Dickensian: “Wandering into Hospitals, Prisons, Dead-houses, Operas, Theatres, Concert-rooms, Burial-grounds, Palaces and Wine Shops. In my unoccupied fortnight of each month, every description of gaudy and ghastly sight has been passing before me in rapid Panorama.”

But Dickens’s walks played another, more important role in his life. They were, in a sense, acts of self-preservation. “If I could not walk far and fast,” he once confessed, “I think I should just explode and perish.” Unlike his contemporary, Anthony Trollope, who claimed he reeled off 3,000 words each morning before breakfast, Dickens found composition to be hard, painful work. The hours he spent at his desk agitated him tremendously, and walking served as a kind of safety valve.

From Merrell Noden’s article at Sport Illustrated, via kottke.org.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Genius!

February 7, 2012 @ 9:32 am | Filed under: Books

To celebrate the birthday of Charles Dickens, here’s part of a post I wrote in December 2005: Snuggling Up to Genius.

…All this Dickens talk brought to mind something I read long ago in the introduction to Kate Douglas Wiggins’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It was an unforgettable account of young (very young) Kate’s encounter with Charles Dickens himself on a train during one of his reading tours of the United States. I no longer have the edition of Rebecca which contains the article (Alice, I think it was your copy?), but I Googled this morning with hope in my heart and aha! There it was, in full, at a delightful site called OldMagazineArticles.com.

An excerpt:

There on the platform stood the Adored One. His hands were plunged deep in his pockets (a favorite posture), but presently one was removed to wave away laughingly a piece of the famous Berwick sponge-cake offered him by Mr. Osgood, of Boston, his traveling companion and friend.

I knew him at once: the smiling, genial, mobile face, rather highly colored, the brilliant eyes, the watch-chain, the red carnation in the buttonhole, and the expressive hands, much given to gesture. It was only a momentary view, for the train started, and Dickens vanished, to resume his place in the car next to ours, where he had been, had I known it, ever since we left Portland.

Shortly thereafter, the intrepid Kate slips into Dickens’s car, where she finds him alone and launches into a discussion of his “stories”:

“Well, upon my word!” he said. “You do not mean to say that you have read them!”

“Of course I have,” I replied. “Every one of them but the two that we are going to buy in Boston, and some of them six times.”

“Bless my soul!” he ejaculated again. “Those long, thick books, and you such a slip of a thing!”

“Of course,” I explained, conscientiously, “I do skip some of the very dull parts once in a while; not the short dull parts, but the long ones.”

He laughed heartily. “Now, that is something that I hear very little about,” he said. “I distinctly want to learn more about those very dull parts,” and, whether to amuse himself or to amuse me, I do not know, he took out a note-book and pencil from his pocket and proceeded to give me an exhausting and exhaustive examination on this subject—the books in which the dull parts predominated, and the characters and subjects which principally produced them. He chuckled so constantly during this operation that I could hardly help believing myself extraordinarily agreeable; so I continued dealing these infant blows under the delusion that I was flinging him bouquets.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

Image via Wikipedia.

From the Archives: “Snuggling Up to Genius”

December 16, 2008 @ 5:30 pm | Filed under: Books, Chesterton & Dickens

(Excerpted from a December 2005 post)

…Anyway, all this Dickens talk brought to mind something I read long ago in the introduction to Kate Douglas Wiggins’s Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It was an unforgettable account of young (very young) Kate’s encounter with Charles Dickens himself on a train during one of his reading tours of the United States. I no longer have the edition of Rebecca which contains the article (Alice, I think it was your copy?), but I Googled this morning with hope in my heart and aha! There it was, in full, at a delightful site called OldMagazineArticles.com.

An excerpt:

There on the platform stood the Adored One. His hands were plunged deep in his pockets (a favorite posture), but presently one was removed to wave away laughingly a piece of the famous Berwick sponge-cake offered him by Mr. Osgood, of Boston, his traveling companion and friend.

I knew him at once: the smiling, genial, mobile face, rather highly colored, the brilliant eyes, the watch-chain, the red carnation in the buttonhole, and the expressive hands, much given to gesture. It was only a momentary view, for the train started, and Dickens vanished, to resume his place in the car next to ours, where he had been, had I known it, ever since we left Portland.

Shortly thereafter, the intrepid Kate slips into Dickens’s car, where she finds him alone and launches into a discussion of his “stories”:

“Well, upon my word!” he said. “You do not mean to say that you have read them!”

“Of course I have,” I replied. “Every one of them but the two that we are going to buy in Boston, and some of them six times.”

“Bless my soul!” he ejaculated again. “Those long, thick books, and you such a slip of a thing!”

“Of course,” I explained, conscientiously, “I do skip some of the very dull parts once in a while; not the short dull parts, but the long ones.”

He laughed heartily. “Now, that is something that I hear very little about,” he said. “I distinctly want to learn more about those very dull parts,” and, whether to amuse himself or to amuse me, I do not know, he took out a note-book and pencil from his pocket and proceeded to give me an exhausting and exhaustive examination on this subject—the books in which the dull parts predominated, and the characters and subjects which principally produced them. He chuckled so constantly during this operation that I could hardly help believing myself extraordinarily agreeable; so I continued dealing these infant blows under the delusion that I was flinging him bouquets.

You can read the article in its entirety here.