Bernie pic

Bernie pic

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

What the Dickens: birthday wishes

I FOUND them dull, most of the thousands of words written to mark the 200th birthday of English author Charles Dickens.
It was almost as if he had been re-categorised in history’s library as a somewhat  tedious celebrity rather than an author who used humour, pathos, social observation  and clever word-play to agitate for social reform, especially the reduction of  poverty.

The Christian Science Monitor ran with an Occupy tag-line on the link to its story: Charles Dickens birthday: a 19th century voice for the 99 percent’  Curiously, CSM did not feature the Occupy analogy prominently in the story layout.

No doubt more than one Open Letter was addressed to Dickens, but this from biographer, Claire Tomalin, asks what he would think of our times.She thinks he would be ‘daunted’ by the increasing prison population in an age of decreasing crime

(Personally I think he would give the Occupy Movement a better run than most of his fellow journalists.) LETTER

The Washington Post ran with a defence of Dickensian verbosity. Whatever! WORDSMITH

The National Post had the obligatory ‘Ten things you might not know about Charles Dickens’, proving numbers are more sacrosanct in popular culture today than 200 years ago. TEN

The Los Angeles Times tried to embarrass us by asking how many Dickens novels we have read. (From my experience, the answer for the average newspaper reader would be more than the average newspaper journalist.) BOOKS


Confirming my theory of new media, the most interesting analysis came as a comment to an article in the Times of India.

Here is the comment in its entirety,

Enjoy the Dickensian humanity.


Sid Harth (navanavonmilita) wrote:
I was a born poor, tenth baby. Poverty is not such a big deal in India. More people are poor in India that any other country of the world.

However, I as a poor boy and Charles Dickens, as a celebrity writer, got along just fine. Frankly, Charles tells, according to his writing and subsequent adaptations of his stories, less than what it does to the human spirit.

It must be a fashion in England. Not in India. Poverty existed then, as well as today, side by side with filthy riches.

For instance, the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, built a mansion atop a hill. Spent one billion dollars, furniture, decorating and other do-dads, not included, for four members of his family.

I called it, "the most ugly house on the hill." It is not the modern architecture, I was talking about. It is OK by me. It was his most arrogant placement of that house, practically darkening the houses near his. Moreover, what view he has looking outside of his giant house is no beautiful at all. Slums here. Slums there and slums everywhere.

What Charles Dickens did was to show the miserable conditions of the poor. It shocked the society. If I write a book on poverty, nobody would buy my book.

Sorry Charles.

...and I am Sid



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