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Tag Archives: young adult

I was always a goody-goody. Never skipped school until college. I didn’t even participate in Senior Skip Day in high school, which was all but posted on the school calendar.

However, if I were to play hooky, I’d want it to be a once-in-a-lifetime, memorable occasion. The following ten characters could surely make it a time I would never forget, or regret!

Bastian from The Neverending Story

1. Bastian from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Now, this guy knows how to skip school! Steal an awesome book from a bookstore, hide out in an attic (or storage room) full of blankets and candles, and literally get sucked into a good book. Plus, he brought supplies- an apple and PbJ, which he’s really good at rationing. I would love to skip a day of school so I could read with Bastian.

Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye

2. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I’ve always wanted to see New York! I could skip school and explore with Holden at my side…maybe I could even get him to lighten up!

Jake from The Dark Tower

3. Jake from The Waste Lands by Stephen King

I’m still reading The Waste Lands, and Jake just finished the weirdest day of skipping school–opening random doors in hopes of finding a desert, trespassing in vacant lots where he sees and hears trippy things, until he finally passes out in said vacant lot. I know it sounds like Jake might not be the best for a fun day, but he did hang out in a very cool bookstore. Plus, eventually his truancy is going to pay off when he finally finds the door he’s looking for! It would be awesome if I could skip school that day too!

Huckleberry Finn

4. Huckleberry Finn from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Just look at this guy! Skipping school so we can do some hunting and fishing, floating down the Mississippi, avoiding danger. I think Huck would be a blast to skip school with!

Alice in Wonderland

5. Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Falling down the rabbit hole and exploring Wonderland or another typical day at school? I vote hanging with Alice!

6. Bod from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This kid desperately needs a pal! Particularly a pal who can keep him away from the goblins who’d love to steal him away and the psycho who murdered his whole family. He is pretty fun though, with a good imagination and he plays with ghosts in a graveyard. I could skip a day of school to hang out with him.

Anne of Green Gables

7. Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Now, I know that Anne would never skip school! She’s almost as big of a goody-two-shoes as I am when it comes to school. But, if she did, we would have some fun! We could hang out at the Lake of Shining Waters, imagine ghosts and goblins in the woods, and gossip a bit about Josie Pye!

Harry, Ron, Hermione, Harry Potter series illustration

8. Harry, Hermione, and Ron from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Skipping school with this crew could mean butter beers, hiding under Harry’s invisibility cloak, and standing up to rotten Slytherins. Or getting some sleuthing work done. Either way, it would certainly be a worthy excuse for skipping school!

Ponyboy Curtis and Johnny Cade The Outsiders

9. Ponyboy and Johnny from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Awww, these cutie pies could use a reassuring voice when they hide out in the abandoned church. I could’ve helped them cut and color their hair so that it didn’t turn out so bad, help them read Gone with the Wind, and fixed them some real food other than bologna sandwiches. Or I could just spend the day giving them hugs and kisses, which is what they so desperately needed!

10. Pippi Longstocking from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Man, this girl is crazy! Check out the spotted horse on her doorstep! If you skip school, head over to Pippi’s house…she can make anything fun and wild!

This is in response to the Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish.

 

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Using Random.org’s number generator, I have selected four book winners! Here they are!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: the winner is Arabella of The Genteel Arsenal!

And Then There Were None: the winner is Jared Q!

A Visit from the Goon Squad: the winner is Lena M!

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: the winner is Ankit of Ankit the Reviewer!

The winners have two days to respond to my emails before I select new winners.

FYI, there were not many entries for these books. Thus, for future reference, if you have any interest in the books I am giving away, you should really sign up! For a few of these, there was a 1 in 4 chance! That’s pretty good odds, people!

From here on, I will probably only give away a book at a time, depending upon my monetary funds. : )

This week, I am offering up my gently-used, paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

Here is Goodreads’ Synopsis:

 A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

To enter this contest, simply fill out the form below with your name and contact info. This contest will run for a week, the winner will be selected at random (using a random generator) and I will announce the winner and mail the book out the following week! Please enter, as I am ready to share!

This giveaway has ended!


I haven’t checked in with the Sunday Salon in a while, so today is a good time to do so!

Well, as mentioned on Friday, I was in an apathetic funk all week. I didn’t do much of anything, including blogging. I did write a Happy Birthday post for Charles Dickens, as it would’ve been wrong not to as I spent so much time getting to know him in January. Which, by the way, I did complete all of my posts for Charles Dickens month and finished Bleak House in January. Win for me!

I have been reading in my funk, and am still reading Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw and I Want My MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum. I should have both books finished this week. Yesterday, I picked up volumes 2 and 3 of Locke and Key by Joe Hill at Mysterious Galaxy Mysterious Galaxy bookstore San Diegobookstore, so I’ll be reading those this week as well.

Speaking of Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, after much debate about affiliation, I have decided to hitch my wagon to Mysterious Galaxy and IndieBound books as an affiliate. For the last month or so, I have been considering what it means to be an affiliate, and would it be like selling out or going commercial if I did so? Am I plugging in like Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival? I don’t want my blog to be a crummy commercial. After being approached by Audible and I considered Amazon, I decided that I would affiliate my blog with something that can use some attention. I realized that I could use affiliation to show my love for my favorite bookstore and help support other struggling independent bookstores. So, I applied for and was accepted as an affiliate for Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore and IndieBound. Now, if, by some off-chance, a reader clicks on one of the links that is connected to MG books or IndieBound AND decides to BUY the book via the link, I will get a small commission. However, that is unlikely, although it would be very cool. But, at least I am spreading the word about independent bookstores and Mysterious Galaxy, the coolest bookstores in Southern California (there are two- one in San Diego and one in Redondo Beach).

Another blogging thing I was considering was copyright. I see all of my friends’ blogs have little copyright symbols or some sort of copyright statement at the bottom of their page. What’s the deal with this? Do I need to do this? What do I need to do to get started on this? If anyone can give me some advice on this topic, I’d appreciate it!

Meanwhile, in my outside-of-blogging life, my husband and I have a dilemma on our hands. It looks like this:

Morgan Freeman the stray cat

This is a young gentleman who we like to call Mr. Fluffers or Morgan Freeman (he’s so cool and calm around our own hissing cats that he seems to be ready to handle any job in a crisis, much like Freeman in his presidential roles). He’s been hanging out on our porch the last few days, and the collar that he wore on Wednesday is no longer there. So, there is no contact info. One of his eyes is sorta cataract-y, and he’s awfully thin and needy, so we decided to let him into the house last night. Our little lady cats are not too happy with this decision, but what are we to do? He might get eaten by a coyote or beaten up by one of those ginormous raccoons I see fishing in the sewers. Today, I will make some posters to post around the neighborhood and put a “found cat” listing on Craig’s List. Then, today or tomorrow, I will take him into a vet or the humane society to see if he has a microchip that we can scan. Poor Morgan Freeman. Is he somebody’s lost baby? Is he abandoned? Who are you Morgan Freeman?

Other mentionables before I sign off on Sunday–

I am offering four giveaways this week! I am giving away Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and And Then There Were None. These are all in very good condition (Kavalier and Clay and And Then There Were None are brand new!) and are all very popular and/or acclaimed books. I will mail them out next week, to anywhere! So, sign up people! I don’t have that many followers on my site, and not many people have signed up, so you have a very good chance of winning! Just do it! Click on the links attached to each of the titles above to be directed to the announcement post and sign-up form. All I need is your name and contact info. That’s it! You don’t have to follow my blog and you don’t need to leave a comment. I’m just trying to share the love with other book lovers!

• I should be posting my reviews of The Drawing of the Three and Locke and Key, vol. 1 this week. Be on the lookout for those!

the Stephen King Project• Obviously, January is over, and I have not yet shared my challenges progress. I will do that now!

Charles Dickens Month in January–COMPLETE, with Bleak House read and 5 Dickens- related posts written.

End of the World Challenge: have read 2952 pages toward my goal of 3500 pages (really? only 3500 pages? that’s the end of the world? someone has to have won by now. I’ll be done with this challenge by the end of the week! oh, I just read the rules. it’s the person who reads the most pages by the end of the year that gets paid out a penny per page via giftcard, up to a limit of 3500 pages. I see…).

The Stephen King Project: have read two books towards my goal of 12 books. This will be a piece of cake!

The Dark Tower Challenge: have read the first two books of the series. I am actually holding myself back from reading The Wastelands right now. I want to have just finished Wizard and Glass when The Wind Through the Keyhole comes out in late April. I guess I’ll read a book per month!

The Award-Winning Challenge: have read two books towards this challenge, and am currently working on the third.

Back to the Classics Challenge and A Classics Challenge: have read one book towards both of these challenges, and am working on the second. I have written one post for A Classics Challenge, and will probably put my February post out later this week.

What’s in a Name Challenge: Have read one book (Bleak House) towards the challenge. 5 more to go!

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday! If you have any advice regarding copyrighting blogs, please leave a comment! Well, of course, please leave a comment about whatever you want. Also, don’t forget to sign up for one of my giveaways! I want to give you a book!


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Alright, here is the first of four book giveaways going on this week at Adventures in Borkdom.

I am offering a hardcover, only once-read, never written-in copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Here’s Goodreads’ synopsis of the book:

A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

To enter this contest, simply fill out the form below with your name and contact info. This contest will run for a week, the winner will be selected at random (using a random generator) and I will announce the winner and mail the book out the following week! Please enter, as I am ready to share!

This giveaway has ended.


I’ve been getting all serious and intense with my writings on Dickens, so I wanted to take a break and get all gushy. Which is good because it’s easy and my brain is mush. So, here’s my top ten list of hotties from the different books that I’ve read over the years…

I have to admit, I feel a little silly and school girl-ish writing this one. If my husband reads this, he is soooo going to make fun of me. If you don’t want to read my gushy-ness, tune in tomorrow, when I return to our regular programming. Well, I just had to make that disclaimer.

1. Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A very long scene that reflects what I love about Rochester:

I stood face to face with him: it was Mr. Rochester.

‘How do you do?’ he asked.

‘I am very well, sir.’

‘Why did you not come and speak to me in the room?’

I thought I might have retorted the question on him who put it: but I would not take that freedom. I answered–

‘I did not wish to disturb you, as you seemed engaged, sir.’

‘What have you been doing in my absence?’

‘Nothing particular; teaching Adele as usual.’

‘And getting a good deal paler than you were– as I saw at first sight. What is the matter?’

‘Nothing at all, sir.’ […]

‘Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early.’

‘I am tired, sir.’

He looked at me for a minute.

‘And a little depressed,’ he said. ‘What about? Tell me.’

‘Nothing–nothing, sir, I am not depressed.’

‘But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words would bring tears to your eyes- indeed, they are there now, shining and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means. Well, to-night I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my wish; don’t neglect it. […] Good-night my–‘ He stopped, bit his lip and abruptly left me.

At this point in reading, I knew

A. Mr. Rochester had it bad for Jane,

B. I had it bad for Rochester, and

C. My #1 for 10 years, Mr. Darcy, had been bumped from the top of my book boyfriends!

Mr. Darcy Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice

2. Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

Oh Darcy. How I love your social awkwardness and your upfront ways. You had me at “she is tolerable.”

3. Julian from The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith

Light to darkness, Jenny. Darkness to light. It’s always been this way.

My teen crush. He was the antagonist AND the love interest–it totally threw me for a loop that I was crushing on a bad guy. This one definitely influenced my love for Spike from Buffy.

Bill Denbrough from It by Stephen King; Jonathan Brandis

4. Bill Denbrough from IT by Stephen King

Bill was here, and Bill would take care; Bill would not let things get out of control. He was the tallest of them, and surely the most handsome. […] Bill was also the strongest of them–and not just physically. There was a good deal more to it than that, but since Richie did not know either the word charisma or the full meaning of the word magnetism, he only felt that Bill’s strength ran deep and might manifest itself in many ways.

-Richie Tozier on Bill Denbrough

Before I liked bad boys, I liked the good boys. And Bill was the best. I was 11, he was 11, it was perfect. This was before I knew that the class clown was the way to go–Richie Tozier would have been my book boyfriend if I read IT a few years later.

Benedick; Much ado about nothing; shakespeare

5. Benedick from “Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare

Benedick, Act 1 Scene 1: it is certain I am lov’d of all ladies, only you excepted; and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love no one.

Bendedick, Act 1 Scene 1, later: In faith, hath not the world one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?

Benedick, Act 2 Scene 3: The say the lady is fair; ’tis a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous, ’tis so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love with her. I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me, because I have rail’d so long against marriage; but doth not the appetite alter? […] No, the world must be peopled.

Oh Benedick–you have no interest in love and marriage until you find out Beatrice loves you, and then you’re all lovey-dovey. Benedick and Beatrice are one of my all-time favorite couples, as they are both so witty and are one of the most well-matched and equal pairs in literature.

Tyrion Lannister Game of Thrones Dinklage

6. Tyrion Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind […] and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.

The beauty of Martin’s writing is that his characters develop so much and slowly through the book, that you find yourself and your opinions of them developing without your even noticing it! This was the case with Tyrion, whom I was amused by at first, then admired, and then, come A Feast for Crows, Tyrion is no longer in the book, and I truly missed him.  And no, that’s not a spoiler!

Gilbert Blythe ; Anne of Green Gables

7. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Nothing mattered much to me for a time there, after you told me you could never love me, Anne. There was nobody else–there never could be anybody else for me but you. I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.

I think Gilbert might have been my first book boyfriend. Interesting how the very good guys get pushed aside for the rogues, scoundrels, and jerks as we grow up…I wonder what these book boyfriends say about me…

8. Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘you are no gentleman!’

‘An apt observation,’ he answered airily. ‘And, you, Miss, are no lady.’

This line runs through my head constantly, as I am truly not a lady either, and can hear Rhett in my head whenever I fall down stairs, curse, burp, punch, etc. I love Rhett’s honesty, and I love that he loves that Scarlett isn’t a lady. He’s the best kind of man–the kind who will let you be exactly who you want to be and are, and love you all the more for it. Plus, he’s witty and generous and experienced! Rhett is the best!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

9. Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth

 ‘You think my first instinct is to protect you. Because you’re small, or a girl, or a Stiff. But you’re wrong.’
He leans his face close to mine and wraps his fingers around my chin. His hand smells like metal. When was the last time he held a gun, or a knife? My skin tingles at the point of contact, like he’s transmitting electricity through his skin.
‘My first instinct is to push you until you break, just to see how hard I have to press.’ he says, his fingers squeezing at the word break. My body tenses at the edge in his voice, so I am coiled as tight as a spring, and I forget to breathe.
His dark eyes lifting to mine, he adds, ‘But I resist it.’
‘Why…’ I swallow hard. ‘Why is that your first instinct?’
‘Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up. I’ve seen it. It’s fascinating.’ He releases me but doesn’t pull away, his hand grazing my jaw, my neck. ‘Sometimes I just want to see it again. Want to see you awake.’

I don’t know how, but Four made me feel fourteen all over again! He is the newest inductee into my book boyfriends, the latest since Rochester. This scene in particular made me want to write “I heart Four” on my notebook cover and squee! with my girlfriends.

10. E.E. Cummings from “i carry your heart with me” (especially when I hear it read like this)

And then there’s this poet who wrote the most beautiful poem that I’ve ever heard. I didn’t quite realize how beautiful it was until I heard it read aloud—and it was read aloud by Heath Ledger, so that really made me take notice. I recommend you listen to it! A big thanks to Amy at Lucy’s Football and GreenGeekGirl of Insatiable Booksluts for introducing me to this poem and Heath Ledger’s reading of it!

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

By E. E. Cummings1894–1962


Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire TomalinClassic Authors: They’re Just Like Us! (if we’re best-selling novelists, that is)

or What I Learned about Charles Dickens, the Novelist

from My Reading of Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Part Two:

As I discussed yesterday, I am not writing a review on Claire Tomalin’s biography Charles Dickens: A Life for various reasons. If you want to know why, read yesterday’s post. Instead, I am reflecting here on what I learned about Charles Dickens the novelist from Tomalin’s book. This is part two of the post.

Charles Dickens essentially invented the model of the modern day New York Times best-seller novelist. He created and fit the mold in several ways:

1. He was extremely popular and well-known in his time.

2. He knew the power of public readings.

3. He went on book tours.

4. He tried to change the world around him.

5. He was one of the first Young Adult/Children’s authors.

6. He actively pursued and advocated copyright law.

7. He wrote serials.

8. He wrote for the masses.

9. He was sensitive to criticism.

10. His novels were adapted for the stage shortly after publication.

Napster and Shawn Fanning6. Pirates of the Atlantic: The Curse of the Continents

Before Lars Ulrich and Metallica’s fight with Napster, before torrent sites, and before SOPA, there was Charles Dickens, blazing the trail of copyright laws. Just as his novels were incredibly popular in his native England, they were HUGE in America, and Dickens was barely receiving any compensation for them! In 1842, Dickens sailed to America, and one of his major purposes was to bring about international copyright laws. “Across the Atlantic there was no legislation of any kind covering the rights of foreign authors, and publishers simply took what they wanted and did what they liked with it,” (104).

Upon arrival in America, Dickens was hosted at many gatherings where he would introduce his proposal that something had to be done about copyright in America. His requests were, at first “politely ignored,” then, American newspapers took the view that “he should be pleased with his popularity and grateful for it too, and that it was mercenary to fuss about pirated copies,” (131). As his tour went on, and he continued in his pleas for international authors’ rights, the press remained hostile. Surprisingly, American authors didn’t really take up his cause either. “He complained that he got little encouragement from American writers, although he did persuade twenty-five of them, headed by Washington Irving, to sign a petition for him to take to Congress,” (132).

Eventually, Dickens began to get his rights and compensation as an author on the other continent, as “Tauchnitz, the Leipzig publisher who had been publishing English books on the Continent, had begun to deal fairly and was offering money for Dickens’ work: his edition of the Carol was sanctioned by the author,”(150). However, America did not come around in Dickens’ lifetime, as the International Copyright Act of 1891 was enacted 21 years after Dickens’ death.

7. Waiting on Wednesday: What Bloggers Would Have Been Eagerly Anticipating Every Month

As mentioned previously, Dickens was one of the original YA authors, and like many YA authors, he preferred the series format for his novels. Beginning with The Pickwick Papers, Dickens wrote his novels in serial form, appearing in monthly installments, and would often write two at a time, such as Oliver Twist‘s overlapping publication with Pickwick.

The two serial stories would be running simultaneously for ten months, and Dickens would have to work like a juggler to keep both spinning. He said later that he was warned against serial publications–‘My friends told me it was a low, cheap form of publication, by which I should ruin all my rising hopes’- but whoever these friends were he triumphantly proved them wrong[.] (74)

As Tomalin points out, Dickens accomplished a major and unprecedented feat with the simultaneous publication of his works. Writers of serial novels (and also televisions serials like Lost) are unique in that they have to have much of everything already planned in their head. While Pickwick began as “a series of loosely rambling episodes,” Dickens began to introduce plot and had to take much more care in the set-up:

There was no going back to change or adjust once a number was printed; everything had to be right first time. How different this is from the way most great novelists work, allowing themselves to reconsider, to change their minds, to go back, to cancel and rewrite. Each number of Pickwick and Oliver consisted of about 7,500 words, and in theory he simply divided every month, allotting a fortnight to each new section of each book. (74)

One great advantage of series-writing, as I’m sure any modern-day author and television writer can attest, is the ability to hook an audience. Dickens utilized cliff-hangers at the end of his chapters to leave his audience begging for more. He also paid close attention to his audience, and introduced certain types of characters to increase the novel’s popularity. For example, he introduced Sam Weller, Pickwick’s cockney servant, in June 1836, and “sales of the monthly numbers in their pale green wrappers rose steadily and soon spectacularly, and the critics vied with one another to praise it. The appearance of a fresh number of Pickwick soon became news, an event, something much more than literature,” (67).

Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider

Nicholas Cage IS CHARLES DICKENS

8. Dickens: A Man for the Common Man

Dickens wrote for everyone. He was not, in the least, elitist when it came to his writing. If he were a modern-day actor, he would be Nicholas Cage, pumping out action flick after action flick. Well, if Nicholas Cage made movies that spoke to one’s soul.

He wrote for and about the common man, and “the ordinary people saw that he was on their side, and they loved him for it,” (68). He knew his audience and delivered what the masses wanted. They found truth and cameraderie in his writings, much as the groundlings did with Shakespeare.

Upon publication of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens found his first major success with the masses:

It was as though he was able to feed his story directly into the bloodstream of the nation, giving injections of laughter, pathos and melodrama, and making his readers feel he was a personal friend to each of them. Dickens knew he had triumphed, and this sense of a personal link between himself and his public became the most essential element in his development as a writer.

One remarkable effort that Dickens made to connect with his public was his publication demands for A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol is perhaps the most well-known and beloved Dickens tale, annually read at the holidays by people around the world. This was precisely Dickens’ goal when he wrote it, and he made sure that the public would easily get its hands upon a beautiful copy:

Dickens asked Chapman & Hall to publish his little book on commission, as a separate venture, and he insisted on fine, coloured binding and endpapers, and gold letterings on the front and spine; and that it should cost only a few shillings. (149)

The public did indeed buy up his beautiful little Christmas tale, but unfortunately he made very little money from the sales, as “almost all of the profits were absorbed in the expenses of binding, special paper, coloured plates and advertising,” (150). It still was very noble indeed, and A Christmas Carol is still proving to be very popular with the masses.

9. Pay No Mind to the Reviews

Dickens was very popular, and he loved his popularity. But, not everyone is going to love one’s work, even Dickens’ work, and when Dickens received bad reviews, he felt it deeply.

Bleak House received bad reviews both from critics and from his closest friend John Forster:

[W]here it was noticed, although many critics allowed that Dickens was popular and possessed of genius, they also expressed disappointment that he had abandoned humour for the grotesque and contemptible, and that it was ill-constructed. (245)

Even his friend Forster said that Bleak House was “too real to be pleasant,” and that “while Dickens pretended to be indifferent to criticism, he was hurt by it, and ‘believed himself to be entitled to higher tribute than he was always in the habit of receiving,'” (245).

In 1857, Dickens broke his rule about not reading his negative reviews, and was again hurt by an attack on Little Dorritt:

[I]n Blackwoods [a magazine] was an unfavourable view of Dorritt which upset him, appearing just before he began on the last section of the book. He was accused of bad construction, of making an unsuccessful attempt to write on social questions, and of giving ‘twaddle’ to William Dorritt to speak.[…][Dickens] told Forster he was ‘sufficiently put out by it to be angry with myself being such a fool.’ (281).

Not much has changed. There will always be bad reviews, and, as in the case of Bleak House, there will always be bad reviews when you diverge from the simple and easy, and try something different than what is already popular.

10. The Book Was Better!

Before the BBC got a hold of Dickens’ tales, players were acting out scripts of his novels only months after publication. Beginning with Nicholas Nickleby, dramatizations of his works were played in theatres all over England. Dickens loved the theatre, but according to Tomalin, his own dramatized works “caused him some groans” (99). Sometimes Dickens got into the spirit himself, and put on his own theatricals (though not of his own stories). While I’m sure the audience enjoyed the dramatizations of Dickens’ work, as many of his novels are written perfectly for theatrics, I’m sure there was an audience member or two who walked out the theatre muttering, “Meh. The book was better.”

If you’re interested in more about Dickens, check out Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens: A Life and/or read my post on Thursday where I will consider Dickens’ views on philanthropy.


Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

• Hardcover: 527 pages

• Publisher: Penguin, 2011

• ISBN: 1594203091

• Genre: Literary Biography

• Recommended For: Anyone who enjoys biographies and Victorian Literature; anyone who doesn’t mind reading about a well-respected author’s dirty laundry; anyone who doesn’t like Charles Dickens and wants to add fuel to their fire.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

In his time, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was the most popular author not only in his native England, but also in America: In fact, in just two days, his American Notes sold 50,000 copies in New York alone. Claire Tomalin’s Charles Dickens captures the inner workings of a fiercely private workaholic, a man whose mistreatment of family and friends seems at painful odds with his philanthropic activities and the deep human warmth communicated in his novels. Tomalin’s mastery of the materials and writing skills enable her to untangle and weave together events in Dickens’ professional career and private life that other chroniclers have missed. By any standard, a major biography of a major author by an award-winning biographer.

Why This Is Not a Review:

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, I don’t like biographical writing. So, why did I pick this one up? Because I have been loving my reading of Bleak House and have been noticing that Dickens had some strong feelings about philanthropy, and I wanted to know where these stemmed from, and how they appeared in his own life. When I read Tomalin’s biography on Dickens, I pretty much got this answer. However, I also got a lot more of his personal life than I wanted. Too much that I didn’t want to know.

So, it turns out Dickens was a big jerk and sort of a weirdo in his personal life. He wasn’t a good husband, and not a very good father, and his friendships equated to emotional rollercoasters that would make a teenage girl’s life seem positively stoic. Yet, he did some amazing things in his professional life. Unfortunately, Tomalin’s biography spent about equal time on both parts of his life, and I reluctantly read about all of his personal issues. While Tomalin’s book was very well-written, and did everything a biography is supposed to do, I couldn’t bear to read most of it. In fact, I wanted to stop reading after I reached the point when he stopped writing his novels and went on book tours. At this point in his life, it was just DRAMA. And I don’t want the drama, I’m only interested in his writing life.

So, I’m not writing a book review because I don’t think that I can be objective and do justice to Tomalin’s work. It wouldn’t be right. So, instead, I will provide a reflection on what I learned about Dickens’ writing life, as that is solely what I read this book for. This reflection will be in two parts, as it is rather long (I have struggled with writing this for DAYS, and this reflection was finally composed over a period of HOURS on Saturday), with the first half appearing today, and the second half appearing tomorrow.

One last personal reflection: after struggling with my reading of Tomalin’s biography on Dickens, I have decided that I will not read another biography on any author whom I admire. I just don’t want to know about their personal life! I don’t need to! Instead, I will read literary criticism on works and authors, and if I need a little personal history, I will simply reference a biography, and not read it in its entirety. Tomalin also wrote a biography on Jane Austen, and I’m not sure that I could read that either. Yet, give me a biography on Motley Crue or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and I could handle that! I just don’t want to read about authors. I guess I’m not the only one though, as Lev Grossman discussed this very issue earlier this month in Time, and even referenced Dickens and Tomalin’s biography on Dickens. As Grossman put it, with some authors such as Dickens, Vonnegut, Ellison, and Roald Dahl, “the less said the better.”

Links:

“I Was a Teenage Samuel Beckett: Or My Literary Biography Problem” by Lev Grossman for Time

Lev Grossman’s Review of Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Classic Authors: They’re Just Like Us! (if we’re best-selling novelists, that is)

or What I Learned about Charles Dickens, the Novelist

from My Reading of Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Part One:

Charles Dickens essentially invented the model of the modern day New York Times best-seller novelist. He created and fit the mold in several ways:

1. He was extremely popular and well-known in his time.

2. He knew the power of public readings.

3. He went on book tours.

4. He tried to change the world around him.

5. He was one of the first Young Adult/Children’s authors.

6. He actively pursued and advocated copyright law.

7. He wrote serials.

8. He wrote for the masses.

9. He was sensitive to criticism.

10. His novels were adapted for the stage shortly after publication.

1. Charles Dickens: Literary Rock Star

Neil Gaiman on The Simpsons episode "The Book Job"

Neil Gaiman on The Simpsons; ep. "The Book Job"

Dickens was the original rock star novelist– if The Simpsons had been around in Victorian times, he would have appeared in an episode. On Twitter, he would have the most followers.

The public bought his books in droves, authors like Poe, Thackeray, and Dostoevsky clamored to meet him, and, at one time, he was even urged to run for Parliament. From the wealthy (even the Queen) to the very poor, on all sides of the Atlantic, everyone read his writing and loved his characters. “[T]hey were passed from hand to hand, and butchers boys were seen reading them in the streets. Judges and politicians, the middle classes and the rich, bought them, read them and applauded[…]. The names of his characters became common currency ,” (68). It seems he was universally loved as a novelist.

2. Appearing Tonight: Charles Dickens

Like many modern-day authors, Dickens knew the power of public readings. His close literary friends pooh-poohed the idea, considering it akin to a circus performance, but Dickens thought “in these days of lecturings and readings, a great deal of money might possibly be made […] by one’s having Readings of one’s own books. It would be an odd thing. I think it would take immensely,” (184).

It did take immensely, and Dickens greatly enjoyed acting out his own characters, and people filled the house to listen to their favorite author read his own words. “People knew that this was the event that must be caught now or never, and they were ready to come for miles and through all weather to hear the great man,” (366).

In this way, I was reminded of the giddy pleasure I had in listening to Neil Gaiman read from his novel American Gods during its 10-year anniversary tour last year. His tour would quickly sell out in each city in which it was announced, and the audience that I was a part of in Los Angeles was comprised of all types, including Wil Wheaton, who was just as giddy as the rest of us. I drove about a hundred miles to see Gaiman, and it was entirely worth it, as I’m sure it was for Dickens’ audience.

If you read it, they will come, and Dickens knew this before it was commonplace.

Dickens on a Reading Tour3. Next Stop: America

Dickens also actively promoted his books on book tours. He came to America in 1842, bouncing around from Boston to New York, Washington, Baltimore, the South, St. Louis, Ohio, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Canada. During his tour, he took part in dinners, parties, and balls held in his honor, befriended Washington Irving, Emerson, and Longfellow among others, and pursued international copyright laws. America loved him and he was truly given the “rock star treatment” with fans clamoring for autographs outside of his hotels.

In his later years, Dickens wrote less and toured more with many public readings. Dickens returned to America in 1867, where he read like a mad man for the public, giving numerous public readings in a short amount of time. When he returned to England, he began his Farewell tour, giving a series of readings in England, Scotland, and Ireland, until he completely wore himself out and suffered a stroke. Yet, he continued with his tour, knowing the power of being with the people, and his readers loved him for these book tours.

4. Before George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, There Was Dickens

Actually, Dickens would have probably not approved of Clooney or Jolie’s philanthropic ventures, as I will discuss in my Tuesday Dickens post. Dickens was more like Michael Moore, interested in his own country’s social problems.

Dickens’ novels shed light upon many major issues in British society: child labor, prostitution, social inequities, legal malaise, poverty, ecology, etc.. He felt it his duty to show what life was really like in his world, and while he felt that most of society would rather not know, he put it in his novels anyway. “There is a kind of delicacy which is not at all shocked by the existence of such things, but is excessively shocked to know of them,” Dickens said on the subject, (Tomalin, 147). Not only did he write about these issues, he also sought to make an active change with his philanthropic ventures, organizing charities for orphans, the poor, and even instituting a “Home” for prostitutes with the hope of educating them and preparing them for a life of respectable housekeeping and marriage.

David Copperfield

Totally Swoonworthy!

5. OMG! My fave YA book boyfriend isn’t Edward Cullen, it’s David Copperfield!

Charles Dickens was one of the first Young Adult/Children’s authors, giving voice to what it means to grow up through the first person narration of David Copperfield. Any emo kid could relate to Copperfield’s story, as Tomalin describes the first 14 chapters as showing “the pain of a child being separated from his mother, unkindly used by his stepfather, humiliated and punished without knowing why, sent to a boarding school run on a harsh and unjust system, helpless in the hands of people who don’t like him,” (217).

What is surprising, is that no one had given voice to a young person before, except, of course, Charlotte Bronte. Tomalin goes on in discussing David Copperfield as a literary turning point: “This was his first book to be narrated in the first person. It was also only the second novel to give voice to a child who is taken seriously as a narrator. Two years before he started to write David Copperfield [1847], a great stir was caused by Jane Eyre, which opens with a child’s narrative of cruel usage by her guardians and at school. […] As far as is known, Dickens never read Jane Eyre […]. That two writers should have within a few years made the voice of an ill-used child central to a novel is remarkable coincidence,” (217-218).

Read Part Two of This Post Tomorrow!