I officially have the best job ever. I work at a library, and get to peek at the new books before they go out on the shelves. Everyone knows what a Dickens fangirl I am, too, so they set aside any related books for me. With the bicentennial, I’ve gotten to read 5 or 6 new books already.
Just got this one today — looks pretty interesting!
Charles Dickens’s Networks: Public Transport and the Novel by Jonathan H. Grossman
The same week in February 1836 that Charles Dickens was hired to write his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, the first railway line in London opened. Charles Dickens’s Networks explores the rise of the global, high-speed passenger transport network in the nineteenth century and the indelible impact it made on Dickens’s work. The advent first of stage coaches, then of railways and transoceanic steam ships made unprecedented round-trip journeys across once seemingly far distances seem ordinary and systematic. Time itself was changed. The Victorians overran the separate, local times kept in each town, establishing instead the synchronized, ‘standard’ time, which now ticks on our clocks. Jonathan Grossman examines the history of public transport’s systematic networking of people and how this revolutionized perceptions of time, space, and community, and how the art form of the novel played a special role in synthesizing and understanding it all. Focusing on a trio of road novels by Charles Dickens, he looks first at a key historical moment in the networked community’s coming together, then at a subsequent recognition of its tragic limits, and, finally, at the construction of a revised view that expressed the precarious, limited omniscient perspective by which passengers came to imagine their journeying in the network.
Also on hand was Rowan Atkinson, who played Fagin in a West End production of Oliver!
“I think it’s an extremely important evening. Dickens is an invaluable part of British literary heritage,” Atkinson said. “I am making the most of the opportunity to do it now as I probably won’t be around when we celebrate it in another 100 years’ time.”
He said that it was a “privilege” to be invited to celebrate Dickens – and managed to avoid the pratfalls of his most famous character, Mr. Bean, when he met Her Majesty.
At a celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, actress Joanna Lumley spoke about what she loved about his work. “What appeals to me about his writing is the humanity and his love of people as colourful drawings,” she said. “On the times he was writing about he was on the money like Coronation Street or EastEnders.”
… it’s hard to imagine an author better able to stand up to this kind of excessive popular celebration. Though time and inclusion on high school curricula has lent him a highbrow gloss, Dickens has been a writer of mass popularity since the serialization of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.