In my life, I have won an inheritance and lost it. I have travelled through time and to the other side of the world. I have solved murders, experienced storybook romances, and discovered alternate universes. Which is to say: In my life, I have read. Academic tomes and romance novels, murder mysteries and classic literary fiction. Newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, and lots of product labels (but rarely user manuals).
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my big inspirations to reread my favorite classics, and discover the ones I’ve neglected in the past, has been doing the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge with Jessica Collins, my friend and contributing editor at Books, Ink.
This month’s Charles Dickens reading goal was to revisit A Tale of Two Cities, but I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked with books of the circumstance and season variety.
My reading month started off with two books I heard about in September, both related to 9/11: Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog & the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory and The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede. Both were so readable that I consumed them one after the other the first weekend in October.
If the popularity of book clubs demonstrates one thing, it’s that readers are not cowering wallflowers hiding from the big bad world in their books.
Don’t get me wrong. I have my cowering wallflower moments, but loving books has little to do with it. On vacation recently, it was discovering a shared love of reading that pulled me out of my shell. “How is it?” the woman occupying the beach chair adjacent to mine asked, bobbing her head towards the book at my feet.
Aaaand, we’re off. We talked about e-readers versus paper books, what kind of stories we most enjoy, and what we generally love about reading. We also agreed that the ultimate vacation would involve reading all day, with no interruptions.
We are now firmly in the grip of my favorite time of year – the months of October through December. I love autumn leaves. I love pumpkins and gingerbread (in all their decorative, imbibe-able, and edible forms). And I love seasonal reading.
Lately, my reading list has been dominated by Charles Dickens and books for young readers, with a murder-mystery and a few non-fiction books thrown in for variety (I do love reading variety!). This month, I’m planning to reread “A Tale of Two Cities,” but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking for new books to fill out my TBR pile.
I had a terrible moment while reading Charles Dickens recently. I was just beginning the second paragraph of the second chapter of “Oliver Twist,” where the narrator describes Oliver’s first months of life as a ward of the state:
The hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities. The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether there was no female them domiciled in “the house” who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist, the consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities replied with humility, that there was not. Upon this, the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be “farmed,” or, in other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still, and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.
I read this paragraph once. Then I read it again. And then again. I could not stop myself rereading it a fourth time, at which point I despaired of ever getting through the second chapter, let alone the entire novel. (Spoiler alert: I did, eventually, get through both.) Continue reading “Why We Bother”
A few weeks ago, I committed to explaining why I’ve been reading so much Charles Dickens lately. Here is where I make good on that commitment:
It started over at Books, Ink (the books website I edit), where we’re doing the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge. If you’ve never heard of it, the objective is to read all 339 books referenced on the Gilmore Girls series over the course of its seven seasons.
My brilliant contributing editor, Jessica Collins, suggested undertaking the project collaboratively. Since the show and Books, Ink are both based in Connecticut and Jessica and I are both fans of the show – and books and, like the eponymous Gilmore girls, coffee – well, let’s just say the challenge felt like the perfect fit.
For the Books, Ink version of the challenge, we feature one book from the list per week, and whoever read it writes a short piece about his or her experience of it. So far, we’re 18 books in, and the best parts have been sharing the challenge with fellow book lovers (local readers are invited to participate) and being inspired to read books that have been languishing on my reading list.
This is where Charles Dickens comes in. When I first looked over the list, the books that caught my attention because I’d always meant to read them (but hadn’t) were mostly classics. Specifically, “David Copperfield” and “Little Dorrit,” two of six Dickens novels on the challenge list. Continue reading “Why Charles Dickens?”
I’d love to hear your picks in the comments. But first: Which classic novels do you suppose have been most frequently adapted for the screen?
If we factor in riffs as well as faithful adaptations, I would guesstimate Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. And of course, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. One of the saddest novels in the history of humanity has been adapted over a dozen times, the first in 1910.
You know that feeling that comes over you when you read words so perfectly, exquisitely arranged, into sentiments that ring so familiar, with insight into the human condition that cuts so deep? And you ascend into such a deep state of bliss that you feel it’s entirely possible wings will burst out of your should blades and carry you up, up, up?
Sometimes, I think that not reading would actually take more effort for me than reading. Words are my Pied Piper. I see them – on billboards, boxes, or between the covers of a book – and I must follow them to see where they’ll take me. I am that person who reads signage out loud without realizing it, who gets distracted by the text on cereal boxes, and who is compelled to stop and inspect bookshelves and book displays wherever I find them (hotel lobbies, hair salons, craft grocery stores – just you name it).