Tuesday, February 07, 2012

My favorite duocentenarian

This man is my favorite author of all time. It is a shame that so many people were forced to read his works in dry, high school environments. His stories are witty, smart, hilarious, and often deeply touching. Today is the 200th anniversary of his birth. Were he still around, I am certain he would have turned it into one heck of a party.
Some personal memories of moments with C.D.
  • Dickens, Dallas, and Dynasty: This was the title of one of the talks by N.C. State professor Dr. Elliot Engel that I attended as a youth. I still have a copy of the cassette (but nothing to play it on, ironically). Dr. Engel's lectures on Dickens were hilarious and interesting and were the primary reason that I started reading C.D. for fun. In 1997, I got to meet Dr. Engel after a lecture that he gave in Dallas, Texas on Churchill. I told him how much I appreciated him starting my interest in C.D., and he was touched. Or claimed to be - teachers love hearing these things and Dr. Engel is, fundamentally, an enthusiastic teacher.
  • Pickwick Papers: I read this in High school as part of an English project where we picked our own books. I was thoroughly entranced. My final project was a web diagram of all of the characters in the book showing how they all interacted. If you ever get a chance to read about how Pickwick was created and changed C.D.'s life forever, do it. It's a fascinating story.
  • Martin Chuzzelwit: I read this one for fun in college, and it was the first time that I read an author looking at the US from the outside. C.D.'s observations on the lack of "royalty" in the US are still timely and very funny.
  • Bleak House: This was assigned in college as part of a study abroad program in England. We read this novel in conjunction with a study of history and the industrial revolution. Being in England allowed us to visit places mentioned in the novel and history as well as visit C.D.'s grave site in Poet's Corner. It was a marvelous program, especially considering it was offered by a technical university.
  • Tale of Two Cities: Far and away, this is my favorite book of all time. I keep a copy perpetually on my phone and e-reader. It is a terrible shame that so many people are forced to read it in school and spend time dissecting instead of enjoying. I read the novel in England, in a dorm room at Queen's College, Oxford, as part of the above mentioned study abroad program. I missed nearly two days of touring, completely entranced. If you are not in tears by the end of the novel, you've read it wrong.
Happy birthday, C.D. And thank you.

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