Left: Sketch of Charles Dickens in an oddly shaped journal I made in 2000 and used in 2009. (The paper is the old Folio and is no longer available.) The pages are about 3.5 x 7 inches. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Unless you don't get out much and you never read the paper or watch any news of any sort, you'll already know that today is the Bicentennial of Charles Dickens' birth.
This might not matter much to you. You might have really important things to which you need to attend. You might not be "a great reader" (how sad for you). Maybe you got out of bed on the wrong side today?
If so, go read some Dickens. Read him aloud, so that you can hear his voice, hear the vowels, hear the consonants. It doesn't matter that you don't have an English accent, but if you happen to know someone who does, have him read a couple pages to you. (Then have that person call me and read a couple pages to me as well. Thank you in advance.)
Here's all you need to know about me and Charles Dickens. I started reading Dickens when I was eight years old. I've been re-reading him ever since. Dickens saved my life.
OK, there's one more thing you need to know about Charles Dickens and me: he solidified my relationship with my high school mentor. If Thom were alive today we would be together right now, reading Dickens aloud; laughing, crying, and talking about life.
Dickens isn't about "sweetness," and "Christmas" (though he did pretty much invent a sort of Christmas, but not the one practiced today). He's about the interactions between people and the circumstances of life which are greater than people, but which can be seen clearly through the crisp deliniation of the individual. He's about frustration. He's about progress. He's about telling a story of life that is vast and almost overwhelming, yet detailed and specific and containable. He's about contradictions.
He's sarcastic, witty, sentimental, and coldly clear-headed. He wants answers to the big questions in life but he can take pleasure in the small niceties that make life bearable.
His work defines productivity. His life exudes creativity. He was a hungry and curious mind. He was the consumate profiler—and by that I mean he looked around and noticed everything, and could understand what he saw.
I don't have Thom any more, but I do have Charles Dickens. Funny, Dickens is still saving my life, every day.
I suggest you let Dickens do a little magic in your own life.
Google "Charles Dickens" and read some of the interesting stuff being written about him at his bicentennial. I don't agree with it all, but then neither should you. Read his books and then make your own decision about whether or not you agree with what's being written about his work.
My friend Pat sent me these two interesting links that can start you off: "Six Things Dickens Gave the World," and a link to an article about two new biographies on Dickens.
p.s. my computer guru Bob wrote to me this morning and told me to check out the Google illustration for today, Feb. 7, 2012. Be sure to do that.