Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dickens Miscellany

After finishing Martin Chuzzlewit in a burst of reading energy last week, I'm worn out.  I need to start working on Zola for an online book discussion I'm leading, and I've now renewed Framley Parsonage TWICE from the library, so I need to get moving on that too.  But here are a few bits about Dickens that I forgot to include last week.

Thanks to Elaine

First of all, many thanks to Elaine of Random Jottings!  I was the winner of her Dickens Letters Prize Draw, which absolutely made my day.  Many apologies for not mentioning it before.  And do visit her delightful blog (which includes lots of related posts, about Dickens, gardens and tons of other fun stuff.)  Can't wait to read this!

My current Dickens rankings.

Now that I've finished Chuzzlewit, I need to look back at all my Dickens reads and re-rank them.  The top has remained unchanged:

Gillian Anderson as Lady Deadlock in Bleak House
1.  Bleak House
2.  Oliver Twist
3.  Great Expectations

The middle four now includes my latest read.  These are in no particular order, all pretty good, but not my favorites for various reasons:  

  • David Copperfield
  • Little Dorrit
  • Nicholas Nickleby
  • A Tale of Two Cities

The bottom:

9.  Dombey and Son -- not terrible, but seemed really, really padded.  Could have used some serious good editing.

And at the very bottom. . . .

10.  Hard Times.  Just dreadful.  Preachy, characters unlikeable, nothing funny or interesting about it.  It's the shortest work because all the good stuff was left out.  Of course by comparison, everything else Dickens wrote is pretty good or just plain wonderful.

And for a little bit of Dickens amusement. . . . Doctor Who meets Charles Dickens!

This is the only clip I could find on YouTube.  It's #5 of these top 9th doctor moments, a clip from "The Unquiet Dead" in which Rose and the Doctor go back to Victorian London and meet Charles Dickens.  Fast-forward to about 5:45 for the first meeting with Charles Dickens.  At about 6:40 the Doctor makes a wisecrack about Martin Chuzzlewit that I find really amusing.

Finally . . . which Dickens should I read next?

Now I have six more works by Dickens to complete the oeuvre.  I'm going to take a break, but which Dickens should I read next?  I have four left on the TBR shelf, so I'd like to choose from one of those.  Here are the choices:
  • Sketches by Boz
  • The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood
I'm leaning toward Edwin Drood, because the BBC adaptation is showing here in the States pretty soon, plus I also have a copy of Dan Simmons' Drood on the TBR shelf, and I want to read the original first.   Bloggers, what do you think?  


  1. I lean toward Drood too, because I have a friend who really loves the Dan Simmons book and keeps telling me I should read it. This means I would have to read the Dickens one first. I have no idea why this translates to me wanting YOU to read it, but I guess since there's very littel likelihood of me doing it...

  2. Amanda, isn't that why we read book blogs? To learn about other books vicariously? I blame reading blogs for my ever-expanding TBR list (currently at more than 700 and growing steadily. Le sigh).

  3. Ah, so much Dickens-love! It feels like heaven! (Tell me when my obsession with him becomes creepy ;)
    I would go for Edwin Drood too, it just seems a very interesting book to me, especially the huge mystery about it which will never be solved. I haven't read it yet but it's very high up on my TBR pile, I just keep procrastinating reading it because I fear a total nervous breakdown with shouting and screaming when I reach the "ending".

    1. It's very tempting because it's the shortest, but I agree, I know I'll be frustrated since nobody knows the true ending.

      I have had books in which the ending made me really angry. Last year I finished Villette by Charlotte Bronte and I was so mad I almost threw the book across the room. I did scare the dog with my shouting!

  4. I'm currently reading Great Expectations (though I'm not very far in), so it excites me to know that you've given it such a high ranking.

    Drood sounds fascinating, and it would coincide with the adaptation (part of the reason I'm digging into Great Expectations at the moment). So I second (third? fourth?) the nomination for that!

  5. Great Expectations is really wonderful. It was my very first Dickens. I was a senior in college and it was for a survey lit class I took just for fun, and I dropped it because it was a fifth class and I just didn't have time. The professor made me fall in love with Dickens and I'm so sorry I waited a really long time to pick up the next one.

  6. I picked up The Pickwick Papers thinking that a)it's a series of short tales so I should be able to read other books at the same time and b)it's his earliest writing so it should be the least polished so I don't want to put it off too long. But, of course, this one isn't on your list so I haven't helped at all. :) I would probably choose Our Mutual Friend.

    1. OMF is tempting, I've heard great things about it. It'll probably be that one or Drood. I've wanted to read Pickwick ever since I watched Cranford (though I don't know if Gaskell actually mentions it in the book).

  7. Congratulations on winning the Letters book!
    I have always wondered if Our Mutual Friend is as wonderful as Sarah Waters says it is. It is included on her list of her Top 10 Victorian Novels. So...that is probably the next Dickens I would read.
    I'm looking forward to watching the Drood adaptation on PBS soon!

    1. I hadn't heard of Sarah Waters' list so I had to google it right away. I've read all of them except OMF and New Grub Street which is also on the TBR list. I think that might be the subject of a future blog posting of my own -- but I'd have to take off Wuthering Heights which I hated. And no Gaskell -- what's up with that???

  8. So glad I'm not the only person who can't bear Hard Times. I like the sound of The Old Curiosity Shop but I'm waaaaay behind with Dickens so don't listen to me!!

    1. I hated Hard Times. I guess people just read it because it's the shortest one.

  9. I was assigned Hard Times to read in a university survey class, perhaps because it's the shortest, but I detested what I tried of it and never finished it. Boo to the prof who chose that one! I've read Bleak House and half of Our Mutual Friend (it's really great with rich descriptions and characters, just very long) and the beginnings of several others, but... perhaps thanks to that bad start, I find him more than a little hard to get into. (The excellent Bleak House miniseries, as well as a trip to London to get more into the atmosphere of it, conquered my fear of Dickens, that's why I read any of his books at all!)

    And I saw that Doctor Who episode with Dickens, so adorable. I think Simon Callow, who plays Dickens there, actually did a one-man stage play as Dickens, which was filmed in some capacity. I found it at my library.

  10. Yes! I've seen the Callow DVD at my library -- I checked it out last year and unfortunately the DVD was in terrible shape, so I only watched a bit of it. I'll have to look for it again. But I just bought the audiobook of Miriam Margolyes' one-woman show of Dickens' Women, so I'm looking forward to that.

    And boo to that professor, indeed! I was lucky enough to be assigned Great Expectations when I took Introduction to the Novel as a fifth class my final semester of college. I had to drop it eventually because I was overwhelmed, but I always appreciate that class because it got me over my fear of Dickens. That and the BBC Bleak House.


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