Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Dickens, You Say!

Several years ago, the Book of the Month Club offered a 23 volume set of The Oxford Illustrated Dickens, which claims to contain all of the published works of Charles Dickens. The set was around $350.00, which wasn’t a bad price for 23 nicely produced hardcover books with dust jackets, but I didn’t have the money at the time, so I just dreamed about owning them. Eventually the price went down to $150.00, which was still a lot of money for me to spend at one time on books. Then it happened – a brochure came featuring the Dickens set at $100.00 with free shipping, and I couldn’t resist any longer. It’s a lovely set of books, each one slightly larger in dimension than a paperback, and at the price, I paid less than I would for a comparable set of paperbacks.

I have been intending for the longest time to start at one end of the bookshelf and read all the way across to the last volume, but I haven’t mustered up that kind of discipline yet – or maybe I have. I’ve picked up various volumes and begun reading, relishing Dickens’ delightful mastery of character development and meticulous detail, but now I’ve picked up David Copperfield and started reading it again, and this time I’m determined to go through all 23 volumes. These books are a gold mine chocked full of ore for anybody interested in writing.

For anyone interested in literature and what it can contribute toward an inwardly better, richer, and wiser life, and especially for anyone interested in creating literature of one’s own, there are three writers worthy of regular re-readings, each reading revealing something fresh and wonderful – William Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens. Shakespeare is a master of pure story whose plots have influenced countless stories over the past few centuries, Proust is the quintessential guide into the magical wonder of ordinary life, and Dickens excels in capturing humanity and helping us to love it. The advantage of Dickens lies in his accessibility. Shakespeare and Proust take a bit more work than the average reader cares to invest (although the investment carries rich rewards). Dickens, on the other hand, will take you by the hand and lead you like a caring friend into his remarkable world. His loveable characters become intimate friends, and his villains leave you fuming at injustice and unkindness, but you will not walk away from Dickens without being deeply moved – perhaps even changed.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Shakespeare all the way.