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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #210 - Dickens

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #210 - Dickens

Hi Mom,

As I type these words, it's Friday (2/5), and this is the blog scheduled for Tuesday (2/2), I have fallen a bit behind because of work and school. So much going on, I barely know what's going on one day to the next. And it's not going to get better for a while. But that's another subject for another time.

Today's subject comes about as I recently finished reading the biography Charles Dickens - a life by Claire Tomalin.

In short, it's wonderful, and it's even better, I assert, as an audio book with a delightful British narrator -- Alex Jennings -- from Tantor Audio.

I am not sure why the book made me think of this photo, but here it is. The photo shows me at work in a hotel room in Detroit back in 2013. I guess I was thinking that a book like this about Charles Dickens inspires me to work.

I strongly recommend this excellent biography. It's deftly written, full of pathos, and representative of Dickens life -- as far as I can discern -- though mindful and respectful of the biographies that have preceded it.

I have not read that many biographies lately, though as a young boy I was mad for biographies and read many. I own several biographies of presidents that number among my favorite books from that era.

I recently proposed reading a Dickens book after my annual foray into his holiday offerings, this year with Simon Vance's audio version of "A Christmas Carol" and Audible's free offering "The Chimes." I put out a message to social media wondering what Dickens I should tackle as I had a mind to re-read David Copperfield  or Great Expectations, but I was also intrigued by Bleak House, which I have never read. A dear friend immediately advocated for Bleak House, and I decided to tackle it, but first, I wanted to plow through this biography of Dickens that had been on my shelf since 2014's consumption of Dickens' holiday treats.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I had read several Dickens books, but I was woefully ignorant of the details of his life. I did not know of his championing of the welfare of the poor outside of his fiction (Dickens ran a Home for Homeless Women charity for many years), his interest and involvement in theatre, and the size of his family (ten children). There were many of his books that I did not even know existed nor did I know that he died at a relatively young age.

Some of the reviews on the Amazon page give it low marks, though as you can see not many. One review I read accused the book of being superficial. Posh. Scrooge. The author of that review claims to have read many of the Dickens biographies, but the review reads like a rant and seems to have an unvoiced agenda. I am going to cheat and increase my content by reprinting a short review I like very much, giving credit to the author, whom one could trace using Amazon if one wanted. This review reflects my own feelings so closely, I could have written it.

Charles Dickens has created thousand of unforgettable characters, and he was also known as a hard-working journalist and as a writer of essays. He was buried-against his wishes-in Westminster Abbey.

His life was short. He died at the age of 58. But one can really doubt whether other writers who lived-or would live-longer-could achieve what Dickens had managed in such a short time. In 1862 the Russian novelist Dostoevsky, an ardent admirer of Dickens who read The Pickwick Papers and David Copperfield in prison, visited Dickens in London. Dickens told the Russian that there "were two people in him: one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite. From the one who feels the opposite I make my evil characters, from the one who feels as a man ought to feel I try to live my life. Only two people, I asked?" added Dostoevsky.

In fact, he was right: Dickens had many personalities in him and Claire Tomalin did a wonderful job in trying to describe the many faces of this titan of literature. She writes about his successes and failures. Dickens was extremely successful everywhere and his tour to the United States only proved this. But there were also those, among them his daughter Katey, who despised him and regarded him as an evil man.

Another Russian writer, Tolstoy, confessed that all of Dickens' characters were his friends, adding that he kept a portrait of the novelist in his room and considered Dickens to be the greatest novelist of the nineteenth century.

This book is splendid, with many new revelations about Dickens' family. The very qualities which made Dickens would eventually destroy him. A gem of a book and highly recommended! - on AMAZON as review by Paul Gelman


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 212 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1602.02 - 10:10
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