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Happy 200th Birthday to Charles Dickens!

charles-dickens1.jpg"The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again." From Nicholas Nickleby.
Born Feb. 7th, 1812 in England, Charles Dickens became, perhaps, the greatest British author of Victorian times. He penned novels, short stories, non-fiction works and essays and often wrote about the harsh economic conditions experienced by the majority of folks during the Industrial Revolution. His social commentary was groundbreaking and he wrote with a realism that accurately depicted the harsh lives of poverty stricken folks. His works, which were often published in monthly serials so they were affordable to the poor, have never gone out of print since being published and have spawned numerous films and stage adaptations. To help celebrate the genius of this seminal author on his 200th birthday, we'd like to highlight a few of his most popular works!

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"think how young he is; think that he may never have known a mother's love" From The Adventures of Oliver Twist

Dickens second novel, published in 1838, is about a young orphan named Oliver Twist who escapes from a terrible workhouse and flees to London where he meets Artful Dodger, the kingpin of a group of child pickpockets and later, Fagin, the leader of the rogues! Dickens depiction of life on the streets and child labor and the nastiness of criminal elements were glowingly received by the public.
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"A loving heart is the truest wisdom." From David Copperfield

The eighth novel from Dickens, published as a serial in 1849 and as a novel in 1850, is said to be almost autobiographical as it describes the title characters life. This book features my favorite character created by Dickens--the very 'umble and unsavory Uriah Heep! (also the name of a killer British band!) Famed Russian author Leo Tolstoy has stated that this was his favorite Dickens novel, so it has that going for it too!

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"I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free." From Bleak House.

How can you not want to read a book titled "Bleak House?" It sounds so chipper. Everything really does kind of work out in the end, no matter how bleak the ride. But, I think this book should be read just to enjoy the names of the characters alone! We have, in no particular order the following characters: Mr. Skimpole, Lady and Sir Dedlock, Mrs. Pardiggle, Mr. Boythorn, Mr. Snagsby, Nemo, Krook, George and Grandfather Smallweed, Bucket, Prince Turveydrop, Miss Barbary and last, but not least, Mr. Guppy! Now don't you want to know what these characters are fiddling around with? There's only one way to find out.......

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"There is a wisdom of the Head, and...there is a wisdom of the Heart." From Hard Times.

Published in Dickens's weekly magazine Household Words in 1854, this novel continues Dickens social commentary by attacking the purveyors of the Industrial Revolution and the expoitation of workers in the working class city of Coketown. Here the common folk are the good guys and the evil leaders see the errors of their ways, but only after taking a metaphorically hard fall.

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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." From A Tale of Two Cities.

This truly superb novel is blessed with, perhaps, the greatest opening line in literature. It only gets better from there. It's 1775 and the undercurrent of the French Revolution is just starting to emerge. The poor are sick of the aristocracy. Later, after Aristocrat Marquis Evremonde runs over and kills a poor child with his carriage and shows no remorse, things start to get a tad hairy in Paris. Pretty soon the guillotine blade needs sharpening! If you decide to read any Dickens as an introduction to his work, this novel is the place to start.

"Darkness is cheap and Scrooge liked it." From A Christmas Carol.

I can't think of a novella that has had as large an impact on popular culture than A Christmas Carol. Next December, instead of watching this story on a stage, film or cartoon, why not go to the library and read the original? Heck, why wait till December? Any time is a good time for good literature and this is good literature. Since this story needs no introduction, all i can say is "Bah! Humbug!" if you don't give this great read some attention in 2012.

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"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together" From Great Expectations.

As orphan Pip works as an apprentice in a blacksmithing shop, he has "great expectations" for his life and hopes to become a respected and wealthy "gentleman." As time goes on and Pip's dreams come true, he disses his old friends and moves into higher society. Over time, Pip realizes that maybe the most important things in life have nothing to do with money and that true friendship and love can't be bought. Dickens figured this out back in 1861. (I wonder if Lennon and McCartney had read this novel before writing Can't Buy Me Love?)

I believe that one of the reasons that Charles Dickens is still so popular is, like Twain and a few others, his characters are the same as people I know today. He describes life situations and the people involved with those situations in such livid realism that his characters and settings could be transposed into similar situations today and the stories would still work. He writes as a human about humanity and though the times have changed, people haven't.

So stop by your local library, pick up a Charles Dickens book or two, light up a candle, throw a log on the fire and enjoy a well written story that will make you think, feel and hopefully appreciate the work of a true literary genius.

Submitted by Dan @ Central

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 7, 2012 10:53 AM.

The previous post in this blog was The Ridge by Michael Koryta.

The next post in this blog is Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons by Blaize Clement.

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