Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens
Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.
I've been celebrating since December by reading Dombey & Son. It was one of his novels I'd somehow missed. I gave myself a present on Mr. Dickens's behalf. I don't think he'd mind; it's probably the kind of gift he would have wanted most.
"That young man was generally required to read out of some book to the Captain, for one hour every evening; and as the Captain implicitly believed that all books were true, he accumulated, by this means, many remarkable facts," Dickens wrote in Dombey.
We have, indeed, been awash in "remarkable facts" about Mr. Dickens during the months leading up to this special day. One of my favorite sources is the Guardian, which launched its "Charles Dickens at 200" Web page months ago. Vintage offers updates on an entertaining Facebook page. I've also loved the myriad book recommendations available, like this one we featured here recently. High on my current must-read list is Claire Tomalin's biography Charles Dickens: A Life.
Today, the British Council's 24-hour Global Dickens Read-a-thon is taking place in 24 countries, beginning with Australia. You can follow updates on Twitter (@BritishCouncil). Dickens 2012 highlights numerous exhibitions, film festivals and other events occurring worldwide during the bicentennial.
The prelude to this holiday has been Dickensian in scope, as, no doubt, will be the ongoing festivities. And yet, I think the best way to honor Mr. Dickens is the simplest: read, or reread, just one of his books this year.
That was my original plan when I started Dombey & Son two months ago, finishing it last week. But guess what? Now, quite unexpectedly, I'm rereading Our Mutual Friend. So I wish you a very Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens, and many happy rereads. --Robert Gray, contributing editor, Shelf Awareness