Monday, September 3, 2012

Michael5000 vs. Charles Dickens

Happy Labor Day!! my fellow UnitedStatsians. Those of you living elsewhere may know that here the United States, home county of Infinite Art Tournament, it amuses us to celebrate an alternative Labor Day that is not in line with the global standard.  And we celebrate it in inches and feet.

It is the five year anniversary of Labor Day 2007, the day on which the official Michael5000 Reading List was unveiled (one more year, I think, ought to wrap it up).  And it is the one-week anniversary of a personal inventory on my Shakespeare reading.  So, it being such a bookish date, I felt inspired to do another personal inventory, checking into something I've been curious about -- how much have I read of Charles Dickens?

The Dickens

I've been awfully fond of Dickens ever since I started into the first chapter of Our Mutual Friend, in -- of all places -- a tent in the Alaska wilderness, in the summer of 1989.  I decided on the spot that I would thereafter read a Dickens novel every year, a resolution that I have never made any particular effort to keep.

Nor am I renewing that vow now; I'm just taking stock of what I've read and what I haven't, with a general intent of finishing 'em off.  Why finish 'em off?  Well, because I have a collector's impulse, of course.  But also because, Sir or Madam, I am damned fond of them!

(Another reason to do an inventory, incidentally, is that Dickens' novels are so thick with characters, plots, and subplots galore, and so often similar in theme, that it can get a little tricky to remember which is which.  No shame in admitting that.)

It seems that Dickens produced 14 1/2 novels, not including the five "Christmas novels" (which I am not including, because I don't want to).  Here they are:

The Pickwick Papers. I haven't read it, and don't know a thing about it.

The Adventures of Oliver Twist.  I don't think I've read it, but was shown bits of Oliver! in high school.  It has such a broad cultural footprint that one feels like one has read it.

Nicholas Nickleby.  I definitely haven't read it.

The Old Curiosity Shop.  I haven't read it.  The title made me think maybe I had, but I was thinking of the rag and bone shop from Bleak House.

Barnaby Rudge.  I definitely haven't read it.  I'm now 0-5, and it must seem peculiar that I'm making an inventory of an author whose works I have never read.  But wait!

Martin Chuzzlewit.  YES!  This is the second Dickens novel I read, quite a long time ago.  I remember the American bits rather clearly, and also remember quite enjoying it.  Ripe for rereading.

Dombey and Son.  I read this one about 13 or 14 years ago.  Quite liked it.  Ripe for rereading, perhaps in audiobook.

David Copperfield.  I don't believe I've had the pleasure.

Bleak House.  The great legal satire and handbook of practical money management!  I read this one just before me and Mrs.5000 got married -- almost 10 years, now(!) -- and ear-read it earlier this year.

Hard Times.  I'm pretty sure I have not read it.

Little Dorrit.  Frankly, I didn't know that this was the name of a novel.  I thought it was the name of a character.

A Tale of Two Cities.  A historical novel of the French Revolution!  And a pretty good one.  I listened to it on audiobook last summer.

Great Expectations.  Pip!  Joe!  Miss Havisham!  The hilarious notion of Charles Dickens taking literary advice (he changed the ending) from Edward Bulwer-Lyton!  I listened to it on audiobook the year before last.

Our Mutual Friend.  An amusing romance about money and the way it makes people misbehave.  My first Dickens, which I may (or may not) have read again in the late nineties.  I listened to it on audiobook about 2 years ago and then again, as an experiment, again this summer.  It did not suffer from the repetition.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  The one he didn't finish.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't consider reading half a book that there was no hope of finishing, but this is Dickens we're talking about here.

Heavens, I've only read 6/14.5ths of the Dickens body of work!   I had no idea I was so behind the ball.  But... lucky me, I've got lots of fresh Dickens left in front of me.

1 comment:

margaret said...

Hurrah for Dickens, and your reading ambitions! My love of Dickens began with David Copperfield, and then crescendoed (is that a word?) with a whole semester devoted to the man's works in college. I've never read so many mountains of pages in my life; I also learned to write really beautiful and long sentences—this not being one of them.

Enjoy all the Dickens you can squeeze in beside running, IRCOing, gardening, blogging ...