Dickens Redux

I can’t stand to be without a book going. Last week I read that Barbara Kingsolver has written a novel, “Demon Copperhead”, which, you won’t be surprised to hear, is, like, an American fantasia on Dickens’ novel.
So I thought OK, I should reread the original first. Because there can be pleasure to be had in discerning where a new text touches a well-beloved one. Geraldine Brooks’ “March” comes to mind, if you ever loved “Little Women”. Of course I remembered the characters, who could forget them? But as to the plot I thought I could use a refresher.
But y’know what? Having slipped again into Dickens’ novel, I don’t think I’ll bother with its distant progeny.
I mean, I knew Kingsolver is kinda woke, anyway, so I’m not a huge fan. But like I said, when I’m between novels, well, I’ll try anything.
Suffice it to say that “David Copperfield “ is making me laugh aloud, and cry. Yes cry, thank the author for that: if I can’t cry enough for the people I have lost recently, I can still cry over these mere phantasmagoria!
How long since you’ve read Dickens? In my case, I was about 15 when I discovered the complete set of pocket sized volumes, bound in maroon leather and printed on …I dk, I guess onionskin, like a Bible? That had graced my grandfather’s library.
I’m glad the codices had those characteristics, they looked so tiny and manageable, you were well into the story before you noticed how slowly pages built up at your left hand— and by then, there was no turning back.
Oh I could go on, how my sister and I laughed over the characters, how their memorable catch phrases became a secret code between us….but you don’t want to hear about the looong summer afternoons and winter evenings.
This is all just to advise you: revisit Dickens the next time you’re between books. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.


I heartily agree. I recently reread Bleak House and found myself amazed - again and again - that Dickens had such a deep understanding of human nature; that his wisdom long preceded modernity, which seems to have forgotten much of it.


Immediately after law school, I was wanting to read something (anything!) not related to law, so I ordered a Faulkner book off of Amazon. I liked what I read but then I found myself NOT wanting to read anything as it felt like a chore. Now I think I have my itch for reading back and have started a book a had from when I was a youth: Shake Down the Thunder.

After starting this one, I decided to pick up this:

I can’t wait to get into that one.


I know exactly what you mean about law school ruining you for reading. I was so…raw with the effort of comprehension, I couldn’t bear even crossword puzzles! And as for sitting listening to a lecture, taking notes—it was YEARS before I could endure it.


Haha! At our annual cow-doctor meetings the curve went the other way: you could tell the recent grads even with the lights low in the lecture hall: they could and did sit still. Older practitioners could not! We got so we could not sit still and have somebody talk at us. non hic porcus. Shift around, drum a tattoo on the chair, check the time.


That was me in school!! Maybe its an age thing. I was in law school from ages 37 to 41.


I just finished a re-read of Our Mutual Friend. It’s an ugly hardcover Oxford volume, but the illustrations are by Marcus Stone. When BBC made their terrific 1998 film version, they made up many of the actors to look like the Marcus Stone picture-people, and in some scenes set them all around as in the pictures. They must have had a blast making that show.

Do you still have your grandfather’s set of Dickens? I hope so.

I have a mix of Heritage (from my parents,) Gadshill, Oxford, and Everyman.

Now here is a thing: Having never read Bleak House and not owning a copy, I mean to get one and read it. @civilwestman, since you have freshly emerged from that novel, maybe you have an opinion on the edition or the illustrator? What say Scanalysts? Which is the best edition of Bleak House?

Oh, and @civilwestman, if you think of watching a film version, don’t skip the older one, 1985, with Diana Rigg as Lady Dedlock.


Yes I have the set of Dickens bound in velvet-smooth maroon leather. I think I’ll read Martin Chuzzlewit now. Finished David Copperfield last night, in tears.

I had a dream, back in the Harry Potter days, that my child’s generation, having enjoyed the long, intricate novels of JK Rowling, would move on into Dickens, Trollope and their ilk.
But nah. This summer we had a party with a bonfire and as it burned to embers and the wine disappeared, I was privileged to hear the interaction of the 25-30 somethings.
They were arguing about which House in Hogwarts the Sorting Hat would have assigned each of them.
And one of them, a lawyer, was in the process of re-reading Rowling’s entire oeuvre.
They HAVEN’T moved on from Harry.
And it’s a shame cuz I was thinking how much he and David Copperfield have in common! Really Dickens’ novel is kinda the template for the story. Well— some critic has written about that, I’m sure.
Also, the elements which make up a memorable children’s book and/or a memorable coming-of-age novel are undoubtedly pretty much universal.


I found Martin Chuzzlewit, which I know I also read at about 15. ( I also discovered that my grandfather signed the fly leaf of each volume of this set! )
But what really amazes me is how I at 15 got past Chapter 1, a Lettice-and-Lovage style parody of every family’s ancestral pretensions— every English family, i mean—and it could have meant nothing to me t that point.
. I reckon I was borne onward by the compulsion to which I was subject at that period in my life, never to NOT finish a book I had started. And I did enjoy it, although I only have a patchy remembrance of it now, the characters,certain descriptions. So it’ll be a voyage of re-discovery.
Whatever — I’m off again.
The flimsy pages of this codex feel like skin under my fingers.