Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens, Miss Wilder, Mr. Lewis!

Charles Dickens, (1812 - 1870) Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sinclair Lewis were born on this date. A pretty good trifecta of authors. Dickens, of course, is the key-note address, though I haven't read him since junior high when an enforced reading of The Tale of Two Cities almost did me in. I am, still, familiar with most of his work through television and movie adaptations. (Shameful, I know.) I will be making an attempt this year, for my Victorian Reading Challenge to read one of his novels and, hopefully, it will be an enjoyable experience.

The funny thing is, that though I have grim memories of reading TTOTC, I do remember crying when Sydney Carton (or is the other one?) makes that great speech before he goes to his hanging. So, obviously, something about the book got to me. And I love A CHRISTMAS CAROL and did love NICHOLAS NICKLEBY when I saw the four hour Broadway play on tv once upon a time. And, of course, I do love Dickens' way with character names AND reading quotes from his books on Bartlett's Familiar. And I love saying: How very Pickwickian, even if I'm not 100% clear on what exactly it means. AND I have a print (Picture From PICKWICK) hanging on the wall facing my desk, just because. So, am I a totally lost cause? I hope not.

A favorite Dickens' quote: "She's the sort of woman now, " said Mould..."one would almost feel disposed to bury for nothing: and do it neatly too.!" Martin Chuzzlewit

Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867 - 1957) My daughter was such a huge fan of the tv series many years ago. I mean she watched the episodes over and over and it doesn't seem to have done her any harm - just kidding. I watched with her occasionally and mostly liked what I saw. My only complaint was that it was all so damned earnest. But that hardly counts as a real complaint, I think. (Those little girls in the cast were quite amazing.)

I gave a bio of Wilder to my daughter this past Christmas. She's still a fan.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) His work seems to have gone out of fashion. He hasn't lasted as well as Dickens and Wilder, that's for sure. But he wrote one of my very favorite novels, DODSWORTH, so I do think highly of him. In high school we were force-fed ARROWSMITH, a novel, if I remember correctly, about a doctor attempting to define himself while slowly being strangled by the strictures of his mid-western life. (I'd initially thought it would be about cowboys and Indians.) Middle-aged ennui, not the sort of thing a high-schooler could be expected to relate to and yet, we were. Turned me off Lewis for many years. He also wrote ELMER GANTRY which made a helluva fine picture for Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons and assorted others. Lewis won both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize (two of one of them, actually), so he's certainly worth taking a second look at.


  1. Hi Yvette!

    My daughter also loved the "Little House on the Prairie" TV show, and she also read the series of books of the same theme by Wilder. They were a nice view into the childhood's of girls from the rural past.

    My HS also required reading quite a few of the classics as part of our education. I was mad about it then, but grateful now! I'm sure I would have never read those amazing authors, which led to other amazing authors over the years. Do HS have required reading lists these days? I hope so!

  2. Pat: When I worked at a bookstore a few years ago, kids would come in with reading lists for summer reading. Some of the titles on those lists made me shake my head in dismay. But most of them were of the 'classic' variety. Somehow, though, I don't think most of those kids were going to get much out of those books. Several of them were so far removed from modern day experience, you really need the distance of your own age to appreciate them. Know what I mean? Still, it's better than nothing.


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