Eco, Chuckie D., who else?

deborah deborah at
Mon Feb 10 12:40:27 EST 2003

I'm changing the subject line of this thread, because one user's ISP --
which shall remain nameless to protect me from lawsuits -- has decided
that "Dickens" means this is porno spam.  Luverly.

deborah at
In plain then, what forbids he but to know,
Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise?   -- Paradise Lost

On Mon, 10 Feb 2003, Melissa Proffitt wrote:

|On Mon, 10 Feb 2003 09:25:41 +0000, hallieod at wrote:
|>>>Not liking Dickens is a sign of a highly developed mature literary taste,
|>>>in my opinion. Just because a pot boiler is 150 years old doesn't make it
|>>>any less of a pot boiler.
|>>I sure hope it's a sign of mature taste, because I don't think I'll ever
|>>appreciate Dickens.  It feels too much like work to me.
|>ARGH!  I go off to bed, exhausted from a couple of days of what has
|>become virtually running a hospital ward, and wake up to find this.
|>Melissa, I thought at least you'd be consistent in not letting people
|>dismiss writers and books this way. :-)
|Geez, Hallie, you want me to fight EVERY battle?  :)  Besides, there is a
|level on which Dickens can be evaluated in the same way as our modern
|"potboiler" writers like, for example, John Grisham.  Believe it or not, I
|don't consider it a pejorative.  Popular success is not to be laughed at.
|>And just to attempt to make you feel properly guilty (assuming that
|>the fact that I like Dickens, and think the way he used popular
|>traditions of the time was great, is nowhere near enough to
|>accomplish this), I offer you a quote from the dread Leavis:
|>	We may reasonably... see some Dickensian influence in
|>Conrad's use of melodrama, or what would have been melodrama in
|>Dickens; for in Conrad the end is a total significance of a
|>profoundly serious kind.  The reason for not including Dickens in the
|>line of great novelists  is implicit in this last phrase.... The
|>adult mind doesn't as a rule find in Dickens a challenge to an
|>unusual and sustained seriousness.
|>Does that accomplish the task?
|Doesn't that quote sort of say that Dickens isn't challenging to the adult
|mind?  So I'm still justified?  :)
|Okay, seriously.  What's interesting to me about the way Dickens is
|perceived as a writer today is that there are so many divergent attitudes.
|Uneducated people just lump him in with all those old writers of classics
|and revere the name and the concept without ever reading his books--but
|among educated people there's this war about "yes he's great" and "no he's
|not" and what it comes down to is the fundamental assumptions you have about
|literary greatness and so forth.  So I think it's as valid to refer to
|Dickens as a mere writer of potboilers as it is to find his writing relevant
|today.  It's more revelatory than anything else, which stance you take.
|And don't worry.  I haven't read anything by Dickens since high school, and
|I'm not going to dismiss him until I've given him one more shot.  Back then,
|I was concerned...well, have you ever read bios of people that say
|"So-and-so read _War and Peace_ when he was 8 years old" or things along
|those lines?  I was unduly influenced by the idea that if I was a Genius, I
|ought to be reading Genius books.  Being completely uninterested in _A Tale
|of Two Cities_ made me feel depressed.  I'm less worried about it now.
|Melissa Proffitt
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