I love reading Charles Dickens. Not just because I have a Ph.D. in literature. I’m actually an Americanist. When I was earning my doctorate at Emory University, my focus was on 19th century American and African-American literature with a sub-speciality in African literature. I love reading Charles Dickens because his novels are so compelling. I think Charles Dickens is one of the greatest, biggest hearted writers who ever lived.
So I’ve given myself the goal this year of reading every novel that Charles Dickens has ever written.
I’ve just finished A Tale of Two Cities (for the second time though I remembered so little about it I’m not convinced I actually read it. It may be my least favorite Dickens novel; I wish high school teachers would not assign it to their students since there are so many better Dickens books to read) and started Dombey and Son.
Dickens’ novels are a commitment. They take a long time to read. Compared to Dickens, everything is short so I read other works (Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence for a book club that’s just forming, George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London to learn about how writers depict poverty and privation, which I finished last night) as interludes.
“There’s a great BBC series on Dickens,” a fellow customer exclaimed as I bought Great Expectations at Bloomsbury Books on Sunday because our local library didn’t have a copy of it. “I just finished the first part and it was excellent.”
I think he was talking about this. I look forward to watching it. But not any time soon. I’ve got too much reading to do.
Postscript: Economic hard times as portrayed by Dickens was the subject of a program on NPR. You can listen to it here.