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the foresight of an unshakable optimist...Views: 595
Nov 26, 2008 5:27 pmthe foresight of an unshakable optimist...#

Meredith Greene
Since the holidays are forthcoming to the literary and artistic scene, we will soon be deluged with nostalgic plays, TV programs and most folks with bookshelves will dust off Charles Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' and put it on the coffee table. Unfortunately not all whom own his books peer inside, letting the cover do all the work of weaving yet another strand in the holiday warp.

It saddens me that Dickens' works are for the most part defined as 'holiday' pieces and only then even faintly perused... when the man, as a writer, shone so brightly among his peers, and whose writing incited almost revolutionary change in the societal attitude of his day, spanning all working classes from the lowliest beggar to the most pampered nobleman.

I think the most remarkable thing about Charles Dickens' writing is his irrepressible belief in the human ability to change behavior for the better... to recover the lost, precious vial of Compassion, drink of it and be filled once more with the warmth of humanity.

More than being a mere penner of fairy tales, Dickens puts in his pieces death, hardship, poverty, treachery, villainy, sorrow and cruelty...

Yet, amid it all the tiny seed of kindness grows up... so small that at first the reader is blind to it, more concerned with trying to hack through the maze of misery that the realists' brush so accurately painted. The black night overtakes the pages, and the cold hours before dawn chill us and hope is all but spent.

But... then comes the morning light; weak at first it appears, and we wonder at what we see. Is that a green plant growing there, there in all that despair? By George, it is! The dawn's light strengthens and the sun warms the air... the vine grows with it, budding and flowering until the weeds of woe are all but choked out.

A Dickens' ending is no mere annual vine, either; it will not wither when winter blows in cold raging and icy screams; the roots go deep and take hold in good soil, the branches grow and harden, forming the strong rafters of a mighty hope. You know that the good in Dickens' stories perpetuated among the characters, all their lives.

His books remind us of exactly what humans are capable of; also his dedication reminds writers to write what we know... to write as if we love to do so.

Meredith Greene

Private Reply to Meredith Greene

Nov 28, 2008 10:41 pmre: the foresight of an unshakable optimist...#

Diane Stephenson
It is good to know there others out there who appreciate Charles Dickens. I have loved his books from the time I started to read them. I am fortunate to have a set of his complete works including his letters home when he travelled to Italy and the U.S. etc. The set was published in 1908, and the binding is unfortunately falling apart, but that has not kept me from reading them all, some more than once or twice. I also have many of the BBC movie versions of Dickens and watch them over and over. They are some of my favourite movies.

Dickens had a talent to create and develop characters and caricatures that was outstanding. He created the serious, the ridiculous, the pitiable, the strong and the weak with such vivid writing that when a movie is cast with an actor who does not meet with my picture of the character, I am disappointed. One example of this is "The Old Curiosity Shop" starring Peter Ustenov, a wonderful actor, but not the tall, thin rather weak old man I had come to visualize while reading the book and seeing the illustrations.

I see fiction as a wonderful medium to teach and/or get a point across with great effect. People will often read fiction when they would not dream of reading a scholarly article, and will glean far more from it even if they did. Fiction draws the reader right into the story, and when well-written, as Dickens' books are, you feel as if you actually know the characters and you either love them or hate them. As the old saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover, but I truly believe you can judge it by the development of the characters as much as by the plot.

Most of Dickens stories, though often filled with tragic moments and lives, usually end up being very redemptive in character. He had the ability to take us right into the characters' minds, feel with them, cry and laugh with them. This is true talent. And it is the kind of story I love to read. If a fictional story does not touch me emotionally, I really do not enjoy it. I want to be taken, temporarily, out of my world and enter into the lives of unforgettable characters that have the potential to even change my real world. Who could ever forget Uriah Heap? Or Mr. Micawber? And who does not suffer with Little Nell as she escapes with her beloved grandfather from the terrifying Daniel Quilp? Though many of the atrocities Dickens exposed in his stories have been rectified for generations, these books are genuine classics that I am certain will endure.

Another author, a friend of Dickens, who I really enjoy, is Wilkie Collins. He wrote "The Woman in White" and "The Moonstone". The latter was the first modern detective story complete with a butler before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories.

There is a world of literature that many people have never tapped into and are missing some of the most enjoyable reading to be found. I do read modern books, too, but my all-time favourites are those of Dickens, Jane Austin, the Brontes, Collins, etc. I would challenge anyone who loves to read to pick up any of these authors and let them take you into adventures in life seldom found in today's writing.

And I do agree with you, that writers like Dickens are truly an inspiration to those of us who write, an inspiration especially to observe closely the characters all around us, their successes, their failures, their foibles, their lovable points and their hateful behaviour. We certainly would do well to look to him as a role model to emulate in our own writing.

Happy writing and reading.

Diane Stephenson

Private Reply to Diane Stephenson

Nov 29, 2008 5:11 pmre: re: the foresight of an unshakable optimist...#

John Wolf
The depth of the writing, much more the reading, of all this fine literature takes lifetimes to do. I find my time so limited for going back to experience the pleasure of reading, especially a series of thousand page books! At the same time, I am attempting to be a writer and get into my own stories. It doesn't seem fair life is so short. There isn't enough time to complete your minds eye of what you see.

John Wolf

Private Reply to John Wolf

Nov 30, 2008 2:48 amre: re: re: the foresight of an unshakable optimist...#

Diane Stephenson
I agree. There is absolutely not enough time to do everything I want to do, to read all the books I want to read, and to write all that is in my heart and imagination, but if I couldn't find time to read, I don't think I could write as much or as well. Reading inspires me to write, and to improve my writing skills.

I have just picked up some old books at the market from the vendor beside me. He is a collector and also has books in his store, but he decided he needed to cull some of them out. I picked up some good bargains. My friend has a few of Gene Stratton Porter's books, and I was able to get two more for her for about $6.00--both were originally marked $25.00! I read one in a night or two. It is amazing how this woman intermingled so much natural science into fiction. Contrary to all the predictions from publishers that people would never read books about flowers, swamps, birds, etc., her books were extremely popular.

I also picked up about 8 of Louisa May Alcott's books, most of which I had never heard of before. One was a volume of thrillers she wrote under 'Anonymous' and also under the name A.M. Barnard. She wrote about drug addiction, drug experimentation, incest, etc., all the things one would never expect from someone who wrote a book like "Little Women". The stories are excellently written and a complete surprise.

I am at the wrong end of my life to believe I can still read many of the books that are still waiting for me to discover, but I intend to read and write as much as time does allow.

Diane Stephenson

Private Reply to Diane Stephenson

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