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A Dickens of a Tour So Far

February 8, 2012

We’re three days into the Barking Mad blog tour, and I’m having a grand old time, y’all. The dates are on my Calendar page, so come join in. The cool thing about a blog tour is that it stays there–you can visit any of the stops any time you want. In addition to the blogs that have already featured Barking Mad, Heather at Bewitched Bookworms, my Friday stop, has already posted a great review which you can see here.

Yesterday was Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. I owe a lot to Charles Dickens, and had a great time surfing through the many tributes that abounded yesterday. I’m teaching Oliver Twist right now, so I also got to spend an hour talking about Dickens and plot and influence.

Most years I do a public reading of A Christmas Carol, and the experience of speaking the man’s words is one I highly recommend. Dickens is one of the most masterful narrative voices I’ve ever encountered–a sure hand at the tiller, always certain and always in control. His plotting is meticulously crafted, his humor sharp and fresh. The way the man uses third person limited point of view is revelatory, cinematic fifty years before there was a cinema. Indeed, some say Dickens was a progenitor fo the cinema in much the same way that he invented Christmas, and those statements are exaggerations only so far as everything about Dickens was exaggerated. Every contemporary novelist owes a debt to Dickens, whether or not matters of style make it obvious, and I as much or more than many.

I’m not going to say a whole lot about him here, not because there’s not anything to say, but because I’m going to write a full-length essay about Dickens and London and me and Joe Strummer later this year. That will make more sense when I write it. But I did want to acknowledge the Inimitable, and tip my hat to him as one of the truly great storytellers, of this or any age. Happy bicentennial, Charles Dickens. I’m proud to stand in your shadow.

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