17 October 2011

Dickens: What Are You Doing for the Next 16 Months?

I already know that this will be just the first of many posts I'll devote to Charles Dickens (1812-1870) over the course of the next 15 months or so--and not just because the Dickens year 2012 (the bicentenary of his birth) is approaching.

What I have to say today is addressed primarily to people who, in some way or another, love Dickens--or who can remember deriving pleasure from a Dickens novel at some point in their lives.

On the weekend I came upon a series of posts on the Penguin UK blog, about how one group of readers is celebrating the approaching anniversary: with a massive 'Dickens readathon'. Their goal is to read all 16 of Dickens' novels at the rate of one per month. They've already made it through Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield--and they're having a ball. Here's a temporary link to Penguin's 'feature' about the readathon, and here, here and here are more permanent links to the three 'Doing Dickens' posts (to date) chronicling the group's progress and impressions of the first three books.

I'm posting these links today because there's some chance you might like to join the readathon yourself. And because I notice that Penguin has slashed prices on the Penguin Classics ebooks of many Dickens titles. If you'd like to explore this, click here for Amazon UK or here for Amazon US to get to the page for the first novel, Pickwick Papers, then surf from there (using 'Customers who bought this item also bought') to see additional titles. Ordinarily I'd recommend searching for free ebooks at Amazon, but at the current prices the Penguin Classics editions with introductions and notes are very tempting.

I confess that I've never managed to read Dickens following a timetable. Even my attempts to read individual novels on a schedule imitating their original serialization have met with little success: I've been unable to stop at the end of an installment when I've had the rest of the novel ready and waiting, right there in my hands. (Some readers, however, love to read Dickens at a regular pace. I believe it was J.B. Priestley who read all of Dickens every three years, and that Anthony Burgess kept a similar schedule.)

What I can say, though, is that there's no bad Dickens, not even a novel that's slightly less enjoyable than it was on an earlier reading. How many writers can you say that about?

I'd planned to suggest alternative ways of celebrating the Dickens bicentenary, but let's save them for another day--and for your comments. To see more about how Dickens fans are celebrating around the world, though, see the Dickens 2012 website.


Josh said...

Thats really interesting I was given a poster from Dan in our local Shop and decided that I would like to make a few sculptures taken from Dickens books. Reading this has really inspired me. Thanks!

James Hulbert said...

Thanks for the comment, Josh. Looking forward to seeing more of your work, getting inspiration from your sculptures in return. Best, J