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The Board of Directors grudgingly gave me permission to write another entry about my pal Charles Dickens. Alas for most people Mr. D is trotted out only once a year at Christmas time. I concur his “A Christmas Carol” is a masterpiece but not for the manifest reason it is a thumping good story.  After a few flops Charlie Boy needed a bang-slap success sale and fast – which he did but his genius is he did it through a story meant to bitch-slap the 1% who could afford to buy it. 

Dickens was a lifelong advocate for The Poor. You will be shocked, shocked, shocked to know The Rich in his time believed poverty was the result of ones laziness and all your own fault; if you would only work harder you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Indeed, to assist the poor makes them worse off and upsets social and divine justice.*

Dickens felt otherwise: success on a personal level is meaningless without engaging with others in the world.  He wanted to get this point through the obstinate heads of thems in charge in a way they would actually listen. He did this through his works. Let’s go have a look see.

“A Christmas Carol” starts almost comic: “Marley was dead as a door nail”.  This is not chance. We need to know he is dead so the ghost is recognized as real and not coming from Scrooge’s own senses. Often in film Jacob Marley is the rushed introduction to get to the meaty middle. In the book Jacob Marley is a center character critical to story.

Scrooge in an amalgam of the 19th century elite. When the specter appears Scrooge can’t understand why Marley is chained: he was a good businessman who succeeded through persistent and self-made industry – good Protestant English virtues. Jacob explains plainly he is cursed because he did not do the actual task of Life: look outward and help others. Another small but crucial detail to Marley is showing Scrooge an escape from damnation will do him no good. This ain’t no “It’s a wonderful life” where Clarence earns his wings through a goodly deed. Marley does NOT get redemption for he is one of the damned. This is bone chilling!  In the better renditions of “A Christmas Carol” the directors keep the novel’s next scene where Marley shows Scrooge the legions of the damned roaming the earth impotent to help themselves and others. 

Sometimes modern readers criticize Dickens for creating a character who too quickly changes his approach. Scrooge’s transformation is too pat. It is hard to believe believe; we believe true transition takes time as anyone in counseling can attest. This is based on our failure to recognize Ebenezer is visited by a genuine ghost from hell ascertaining there is divine justice and the reality of eternal punishment. 

Thanks to this book Dickens transformed Christmas into the holiday we all now know, which includes ‘giving to the poor’. May The Ghost of Jacob Marley continue to haunt and remind us charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence remain our true business. 

 

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*Aren’t you glad you live in the 21st century where such a thing never happens?

 

 

th    Today is the feast day of the nativity of my main man (in the literature department) Charles Dickens. Like Shakespeare he made up words that have crept into common use.*

I like fancy and fustian words and I like Dickens, so in honor of the day I put out the welcome doormat (for he invented that word) and provide some jolly words.

Dickens is attributed to making up nearly 200 words and expressions. Here are some wordsI bet you didn’t know are attributed to Mr. Dickens:

Abuzz

Bulgy

The creeps

Earful

Funky

On a rampage

Devil-may-care

Messiness

and

Snobbish

There are also a handful of lovely Dickens-words that didn’t get into the muscle memory of modern English. but I think they are worth reviving:

Sawbones – a slang term for a surgeon or physician in general. Crude but apt, no?

Lummy – an adjective meaning cute.

 

There are also some words derived from Dickens’ characters which are also worth using:

Tapleyism – (adj.) named after an optimistic fellow named Tapley in “Martin Chuzzulwit”, it means being cheerful and optimistic even in the most dirge of circumstances.

Grandgrind – (n.) from “Hard Times”, a grandgrind is a no-nonsense humorless person only interested in facts and not with banter, fluff, and nonsense.  This is not a complimentary term.

Podsnappery – (adj.) this one we must revive!  It means being obstinate and refusing to accept unpleasant facts.

 

Finally I will address ‘The Dickens-boredom’ debate. It is a common belief Charlie-boy invented the word boredom.  Alas he did not, although he helped to develop the modern day use of the word.  I forget what miscreant said this but here it is:

 “Charles Dickens may not have invented boredom, but he certainly perfected it.”

Oh, the horror!

dickens-n-editor-300x300

 

*There is controversy if Bill or Chuck actually made words up or merely used words common at the time we attribute to them as that is where everyone first read them. I like the notion of writers making up new and clever words. People do it all the time anyway and we seldom know who did thi

Today is the birthday of Urs Truly’s favorite author and wizard of words Charles Dickens. I have written about this before, so I don’t have more to add to the feast day other than I am still quite found of the old rascal, fustian as he can be at times. If you think Urs Truly likes to pepper his prose with lofty lingo try reading Dickens some time. His work is an encyclopedia of grandiloquence. I  wish I could talk and write as he does. Someone once said during a road trip when I was reciting a munificence of flumadiddle that I already do. I think it was a compliment.

Unless you have been living under a rock then you know today is also the Super Bowl. I won’t be watching it for I have not gotten around to cleaning up the morass that is the backyard. It is today or never; I won’t have time this week. The Best Friend arrives this Saturday. Someone recently drained the pool and replenished it with fresh water. I have my fingers crossed the Spo-spa will be fixed in time as well. With the pool looking limpid this makes the patio look even more dingy; it needs a great emunction and I plan to do give it.  Perhaps I will put on the audio-book rendition of “Little Dorritt’ to inspire me to my tidy-task. I must be careful not to inadvertently put on something by Karl Dikkens the well-known Dutch author.  The pace of his writing I find more satisfactory but I can’t grasp a word of it, dank u.

I just finished reading “The Pickwick Papers”* by Charles Dickens.  With its completion I have achieved one of my ‘Bucket list” items: read all of Dicken’s major works. This looks like it’s taken me a long time to accomplish this task. Truth is, I’ve delayed reading this last book, for it means ‘There are no new Dickens left to read’. Happily, his works can be reread many times and I plan to do just that.

Fellow members of the bibliobibuli know what I mean when I express the bittersweet feeling I get when I come to the end of book and realize ‘there is no more’. I’ve purposely slowed my pace when approaching the end of a TGR**, for I don’t want to hurry to its conclusion.

But in the great cycle of life (or reading) the sad feeling of a completed book is quickly coupled with the excited anticipation of picking up a new one.  The sound of the binding cracking as I enter a new tome is music to my ears. Or, if the book is a relict from a used bookstore, it emits an aroma of old ink and faded paper which sends my heart pounding like a whiff of amyl nitrate.***   A Kindle can’t do either.

My ‘to read’ book pile lacks no options. I will close my eyes, put out my hand, and see what jumps into it saying  ‘Read me next!”.

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*It was a jolly good read, indeed!

** Thumping Good Read

*** Pretty, no?

Since my last entry went over like a lead balloon, I take up pen in hand again and return to prose.

96h07/fion/3340/exp1576Spo-fans know I am an acolyte of Mr. Dickens, having gone so far as to name myself “Spo” in an homage to “Boz”, which was his pen-name. My blog-day (8 February) follows his birthday (7 February). I hoped my emulation would result in his ghost gracing me with similar wit and way with words.

Alas I am no Dickens, as anyone who reads my blog can attest.

I am reading “The Pickwick Papers” which reveals his style:

“Bright and pleasant was the sky, balmy the air, and beautiful the appearance of every object around, as Mr. Pickwick leant over the balustrades of Rochester Bridge, contemplating nature, and waiting for breakfast.”

This stuff makes me melt.

Mind! Mr. Dickens can be “wordy”.  Every paragraph has one or two fancy or relict words in it, which makes me pause to consult dictionary.com to inquire the hell does that mean.*  All the same, a more splendid author in English Literature can not be found.

I remind myself from time to time writing is my hobby, while it was his profession.**  We have in common an appetence to write and have our work read and adored. Are all writers starved for attention I wonder? “The Pickwick Papers” were originally presented chapter by chapter in a newspaper, prompting subscribers to come back to find out what happens next.  Regular blog entries to lure in returning Spo-fans is not too different. So perhaps I have a touch of Charles after all. ***

And if my Little Nells are more Lady MacBeths,  who’s the wiser?

Cartoon Dickens 2

 

* Balustrade – noun: a railing supported by balusters, esp. an ornamental parapet on a balcony, bridge, or terrace.

**Mr. Dicken’s hobby happened to be gardening, for which he didn’t expect to be paid.

*** Have I mentioned Charles is my middle name?

I have to make a note on this one!

Charles Dickens, my favorite, was born 200 years ago today!

Hurrah!

Recently Yahoo sent me a notice another person subscribed to my blog. This means whenever I post, this new Spo-fan is made aware and can stop by to read my latest. Notices like this make me realize I have achieved my dream: I am a writer!  Who would have thunk it? What started as a means of self-expression has turned into something people read regularly – can you imagine?  I can put myself on the good ship “Authors” if only as stowaway in one of the lifeboats.  I may not be paid for writing Spo-Reflections (worse luck) but it pleases me to no end people find it interesting.

I thank Michael of Temporary Trouble Spots over and over  for encouraging me to take up blogging. I also bless the late Barbara Holland, an authoress I greatly admire, who sent me an e-mail of encouragement to write.

Once upon a time there was a woman named Rosemary Brown. Her claim to fame was dead composers used her as a channel to write out compositions. She claimed several utilized her, each using her in a different way. Liszt would guide her hands on the keys. Beethoven would simply dictate, a method she disliked because she never knew what the piece would sound like until it was written out. For fun, I imagine I am being channeled by dead authors. It tickles my fancy to think my fingers are typing out compositions guided by Dickens, Twain, Holland, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Thomas Ellis (to name my favorites). If so, I must be an awful disappointment to them, for try as I may to emulate them, nothing I write comes close to their class (although Ms. Ellis would be pleased at my use of the term Someone).

This nonsense is an amusing daydream. Truth is, what I write is my own (I think). I am pleased to do so, and further pleased others read it.

Another Dickens entry!

There is a great deal of melodrama and pathos in Dickens. There are also several frightening scenes.  Ironically, one of his most scary pieces is in “A Christmas Carol”. Scrooge has finished 12 days of Christmas celebrations. The Ghost of Christmas Present is about to bid him farewell for his life is coming to its end.  Scrooge sees something under the Spirit’s robe:

 

 

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

“Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve.

The timing is perfect. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrives, who is the Grim Reaper, Death incarnate. Ignorance and Want precede Doom and Death.

Dickens warns his readers even in the best of times we have the dark side of Humanity. To deny The Shadow side will spell the downfall of man.

Ignorance and Want are quite alive and well and growing.  As the population grows and resources diminish, Want is becoming more demanding.

But it is Ignorance the ghost rightfully tells us to fear the most. One only has to hear the news or examine politics (here and everywhere) to see Ignorance is proliferating.  Scary gloomy thoughts, but they must be addressed.

Today is the birthday of Charles Dickens.

He of my favorite authors.

He grew up in poverty and misery, witnessing firsthand social injustice and awful conditions. Many of his works are intentionally bleak to make his readers aware about conditions in England in the 19th century.

He often wrote in segments for magazines. He was the J.K. Rowling of his time. People would wait for the latest segment of a story. A famous story is people waiting on a New England dock for an English ship to arrive with the latest installment of “Old Curiosity Shop”. People shouted to the sailors as they docked “Is Little Nell dead? (the heroine in the series)”. When Queen Victoria wrote a book of her own, she was told it had ‘outsold Dickens” which was some feat.

Nowadays Dickens is a challenge to read. 21st century minds have been trained to have short attention spans; it is hard to concentrate on 19th century novels. I have to admit Dickens can be ‘wordy’ at times. Sometimes I prefer to hear a Dickens novel by way of CD.

My favorite Dickens novel is Bleak House.

Here is a clip from the BBC production – please watch it – it is stunning.

His characters are not two dimensional as is sometimes assumed. They are predominantly of one temperament, but we all know people like that. Dickens had compassion for his characters; his villeins can be as tragic as Shakespeare.

Sometimes when patients wonder what makes life worth living I joke –

Shakespeare

Mozart

The Marx Brothers

and

The Novels of Charles Dickens

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