Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Real Book Share: Doubling Up on Dickens

Tonight the Colville Branch AAUW will meet for its annual Book Share. We'll exchange recommendations for books we've enjoyed this past year. My list includes Joan Didion's Blue Nights and half a dozen other books I've found engrossing. It concludes with Claire Tomalin's excellent new biography, Charles Dickens: A Life.

After I compiled my list I noticed I'd not included anything by Dickens himself. If there's anybody in the group who is not familiar with Dickens' novels, and I were forced at gunpoint to recommend just one, I'd elect his eighth.

You can win bar bets with this question: what was the full, original title of Charles Dickens' novel, now commonly alluded to as David Copperfield?

Take a deep breath, because you'll need it to repeat the answer:
The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account)

In the preface to the 1867 Charles Dickens edition, he wrote, "… like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield." It's my favorite, too, and I'm beginning to reread it this year for the Dickens Bicentennial. I've got it on my Kindle, and read a chapter a day. Then I flip over to Dombey and Son, and read a chapter there. These are the two Dickens books currently being discussed on the Yahoo Group, The Inimitable Boz, which I recently joined.

I'm looking forward to attending The Friends of Clark Park's 200th Birthday celebration in Philadelphia on February 5, where actors and musicians will recreate Dickens' world with songs and excerpts from his novels, and will parade to the famous bronze statue, crafted by Frank Elwell in the late nineteenth century, to sing Happy Birthday to The Inimitable.

I'll also be taking in the Free Library of Philadelphia's Rare Book Department. It's home to one of the finest collections of Dickens works in the world, as well as his stuffed pet raven “Grip,” said to be the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem.

On February 7 I'll be dining in the Azalea Room of the luxurious Omni Hotel at Independence Park, where the Philadelphia Dickens Fellowship will stage a birthday banquet.  The Omni is at 4th and Chestnut, the site of the United States Hotel where Dickens stayed in 1842 and where he met with Edgar Allan Poe.

(For those who puzzle over Lewis Carroll's famous unanswered question, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" it wasn't only Poe who wrote on did Dickens in Barnaby Rudge, which Poe reviewed!)

During the week I'll also visit the Philadelphia Art may remember its steps from the movie "Rocky." It's featuring an exhibit of Vincent van Gogh's later works. No, the artist and Dickens never met...Van Gogh was just seventeen at the time of Dickens' death. Dickens wasn't widely translated in those days.

It's a shame Vincent couldn't have read David Copperfield. I think it would have given him hope. I know it did me when I first read it at seventeen.

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