Quote of the Day: Why You Are Not Reading Charles Dickens Right Now

You may be dreaming of hot buttered rum, says Daniel Arizona, but you probably can't name three characters in A Tale of Two Cities

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"It never ceases to amaze me how embedded Charles Dickens is in our culture during the holiday season, when Christmas holds the national imagination ransom. ... Oprah Winfrey, that literary kingmaker, recently selected 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Great Expectations' as her two book-club picks ... But I wonder how much real attention Dickens's books will get. In America at least, he seems to be an author more known than read. (Find me someone who claims to have read 'Martin Chuzzlewit' and I will show you a goddamned liar.) Yet even if you've read only one of his books, his stamp is such that it feels like you've read them all. The virtues that kept him famous, prosperous and never out of print--that he is easily grasped and eternally inventive in his visuals and jokes--have served to make him iconic. His characters, of course, deserve most of the credit. ... Taken as a whole, those 989 characters make up an unforgettable universe of humanity matched only by Shakespeare, whom Dickens worshipped. ...

"Out of plain curiosity and with some trepidation, I sallied forth to the Dickens Christmas Fair ... to see for myself how Chuck D was being represented at his own holiday shindig. What I found was not so much a celebration of the man's literary genius as a Renaissance Festival in frock coats, flat caps, bonnets and parasols. The steampunkers were in attendance, with their goggles and leather trench-coats. With the exception of a single wand shop, the Harry Potter contingent was blessedly absent. However, after imbibing some specially made Copper Ale by Lagunitas Brewery and taking a picture of a ghoulish Jacob Marley (and me), I buried my disappointment at the lack of book stalls and assorted Dickensalia and ended up having a good time. It's hard to remain disgruntled for too long in an alternate reality replete with fine ale, great expectations notwithstanding. ... One day perhaps his mass popularity will translate into mass curiosity and finally into mass appreciation."

- Daniel Arizona at More Intelligent Life

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