Today celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of the world’s most beloved Charles Dickens. No book site can let the day pass without at least a word or two. As a former manager of a new and used bookstore, it was my pleasure to sell various Dickens’ titles to blocks of students who would come a-complaining that they’d been assigned A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, or Great Expectations. I would try to convince them they were in for a treat, “Why the glum faces?” Of course I knew why the glum faces. Who likes to be told, “Here, read this, it’s good for you.” Dickens was for those students what lima beans continue to be for me. But I talked the good talk, told them about how relevant his writing is for today’s reader. What could be more relevant than crooked bankers, corrupt politicians, an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor and all those homeless street people? The only time they’d really perk up is when I’d tell them that when originally published, Dickens was as popular as Stephen King or J. K. Rowling. The kids still wanted Cliffs Notes to go with the book. They stood by their complaints, the books were long and OMG his sentences were just as long. Not quite the sentence structure for text messaging. Ah, and Mr. Dickens thought poor Oliver had it tough.
My second comment is about my own collection of Dickens. It’s not fancy, but intact. The collection was published by P. F. Collier and Son in the early 1900’s. The books have red mock-linen boards with a slight embossing, and gold print and more very slight embossing on the spines. They were bought to be part of a high school graduation gift for my daughter, but after bringing them home and going over the titles of unread Dickens, I ever so reluctantly decided to keep them for myself. I never told her, and the books I bought as a replacement her for graduation were actually more valuable than my Collier set, but I never told her. Oh, she saw my Dickens collection. They were immediately put on my shelves. I never hid the fact that I purchased them, only for whom they had originally been intended. She seldom reads my blogs (she does edit my reviews) so I’m not worried she’ll find out. But just in case: if you happen to read this Jacqueline, all thirty volumes are ear-marked for you in my will. Happy Birthday Charles Dickens.