DICKENS—ARE GREAT BOOKS ENOUGH?

DICKENS—ARE GREAT BOOKS ENOUGH? Dickens is a difficult comparison for Twain. A lot of great writers can’t match the number of great books that Dickens wrote (Consider Tolstoy, for example. Balzac, of course, is a different story.). From time to time, Mary Jane will express her distaste for Dickens, and I will list Dickens novels that I know she thinks are great—PICKWICK PAPERS, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, BLEAK HOUSE, NICHOLAS NICKLEBY, DAVID COPPERFIELD, OLIVER TWIST, HARD TIMES, A CHRISTMAS CAROL….She acknowledges their greatness (I just checked the list with her), but then says that she is revolted by Dickens’s indulgence in excess sentimentality. Interestingly, Christopher Hitchens has an article about Dickens in the current Atlantic, which uses the M word (“mawkish”) about some of Dickens’s characters and refers to him as “a vain actor-manager type who used pathetic victims as tear-jerking raw material”—and then acknowledges “that there is something FORMIDABLE about Dickens that may not be gainsaid.”

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One Response to DICKENS—ARE GREAT BOOKS ENOUGH?

  1. Mary Jane Schaefer says:

    It’s one thing to diss a great writer and deny him his due. It’s another thing to say, “This person’s work is not to my taste.” The latter actually says at least as much about the speaker’s taste as about the author’s works. If I said my favorite of Dickens’ works is Pickwick Papers, that doesn’t mean it’s his greatest work–just that I’m rather eccentric.

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