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.
And the adaptations just keep coming: A new one, called Victor Frankenstein and starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, hits theaters on November 25. Continue reading “What is the best ever screen adaptation of a classic novel?”
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?
Or maybe you’ll just levitate, like Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins, no wings required?
This is how I’ve been feeling lately about Charles Dickens. Continue reading “5 Times Charles Dickens Gave Me Fairy Wings”
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).
Except … poetry. For me to read poetry takes a concerted effort. Meaning I have to remind myself, oh go read a poem, why dontcha? I’m always happy I did, but I have to remind myself to do it. Continue reading “Literary Excursions: The Wallace Stevens Walk in Hartford, Conn.”
Taken at the since closed (sniffle) Posman Books in Grand Central Station
Twice over the last month, Facebook friends have posted book recommendation requests on my timeline. Specifically, they asked for help deciding which book they should read among the many proffered on one (or, in this case, two) of those infernal list articles with names like “100 Books You Should Read Right This Moment.”
Now, I love being asked for book recommendations. It also happens to be true that I’ve written articles like the aforementioned, albeit with more modest numerical values (I’m a fan of 10, or even an eminently manageable five). So after scrolling through the titles on each list, I was quite embarrassed to have to admit, publicly, that I have yet to read a single one of those books. Not. One. Book. Continue reading “All About the Books, But Which Books, Exactly?”
Since this is my first post, a few words of introduction seem in order. I am a writer, teacher, and avowed book lover (more on these at my “about” page). Here is where I will write about what I’m reading and my other bookish pursuits (attending author talks, visiting literary landmarks, etc.).
So what do I read? I enjoy almost all genres, except horror and erotica, which have in common that they tend to be more explicit that I favor. I prefer ambiguity and allusion because I have it in my head that they make me work a little harder, stimulate my imagination, and compel me to think. But I suspect this is me crafting a clever cover for the fact that I just don’t like to read explicit violence and sex. I find it alarming.
As a reader, I tend to go through phases. Continue reading “Ten Things About (Reading) Me”