A new study has found that people really are none the wiser about whether they’re reading a Charles Dickens masterpiece or one of the works of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, billed as ‘the worst writer in history
Heh, sounds exactly like my self-imposed summer reading list when I was 12.
For the average Booker Prize judge or even a first-year English literature undergraduate, reading 15 chunky novels and a few short stories in a year may not be a Herculean task.
But for this news editor and father of two young children, squeezing the requirement to digest 11,000 words a day around everything else a journalist needs to take in - work, family and life in general - was something of a challenge.
Apparently there are already multiple Pride and Prejudice-based ones, too. So, keep your fingers crossed, Dickens fans — I’m sure an erotic version of A Tale of Two Cities or David Copperfield is right around the corner.
But please, I beg you: nobody write an erotic version of The Pickwick Papers.
The book will join the growing number of erotic fan-fiction novels piggybacking on the success of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey — a trilogy originally written as Twilight fan-fiction that’s since become a New York Times betseller and been credited with starting a revolution of “mommy porn.”
There’s no escaping Dickens this year, it being the bicentenary of his birth. And along with Dickens come his illustrators: Cruikshank and Phiz, obviously, but a plethora of others including Richard Doyle, Edwin Landseer and John Tenniel. It’s impossible to detach the novels from the illustrations, not least because the author meant it like that. Only Great Expectations and Hard Times were produced without pictures. For the rest, Dickens kept an iron control over his illustrators… he gave them an outline of the plot before he wrote the text and he monitored the drawings to ensure that they matched precisely with his own conceptions.
Forget Lionel Bart’s Oliver! which turns the evil, amoral Fagin into ‘the merry old gentleman’ Oliver mistakes him for in the novel and spares audiences the urgent angry horror Dickens’s words convey so compellingly. Given Bill Sykes’s vicious criminality, Nancy’s prostitution and the hangings, few people would, if they really thought about it, regard Oliver Twist as a book they wanted to put anywhere near younger, impressionable minds. Certainly a ‘12+ book.’
[Picture: Background — a six piece pie style colour split, alternating black and grey. Foreground — a picture of an armadillo. Top text: “ [Read novels] ” Bottom text: “ [that are mentioned in other novels] ”]
For Charles Dickens fans, 2012 will be a good year. Throughout 2012, celebrations are scheduled across England in honor of the 200thanniversary of the author’s birth, which falls on February 7. A dedicated Web site has been set up to detail events, activities, legacy projects, festivals, performances and exhibitions that commemorate the author’s life and work.
2012 is round the corner, and an important event will soon happen: in February the world will celebrate Charles Dickens’s bicentennial (bicentenary). In 1850 Dickens brought out David Copperfield. Since that time, Mr. Micawber, Mrs. Gummidge, Spenlow and Jorkins, and all, all, all have been our perennial companions. Uriah Heep survived the many wars and revolutions, learned nothing, and remained as ‘umble as ever. Mr. Dick keeps flying kites and wondering how the thoughts from the head of King Charles I ended up in his own poor head. Although even those who do not read thick nineteenth-century novels (the majority of mankind) must have heard the name David Copperfield, few of them will recall that also in 1850 William Makepeace Thackeray’s Pendennis was published.
When Charles Dickens was at the peak of his popularity, Americans used to wait on East Coast docks for the latest chapters of his serialized novels to arrive. TV dramas are our version of that. The best have that mix of shamelessness and sophistication that Dickens refined into art — or at the very least, artful melodrama…