Summer has arrived and with it baseball, barbeques and beach books. If I venture to the beach I always bring a couple good beach books (and forty gallons of sunscreen, a case of beer and a large umbrella which serves as a sort of flag for my Mahons embassy among the bathing beauties). If you are looking for a wildly popular author who actually enjoyed critical and commercial success, may I suggest what might be a suprising choice – Charles Dickens – whose work was hiding in plain sight when it came to me.
I know, I know, some wise ass out there will say A Christmas Carol doesn’t really go with sand and surf. And they would be right. But damn if that old boy couldn’t write a tale. I happend to grab A Tale of Two Cities off the shelf a couple weeks ago and it is terrific. I am halfway through. I mean I know how it ends and have seen two or three movies of that work, but the writing and wit are fantastic. And Boz could do drama and melodrama like no one else. I will readily admit having seen more off Dickens work in movies and television than having read it, and I think in my mind I always just figured some day I’d get around to reading him. I have read Great Expectations a few times and David Copperfield once. Each work is so rich with characters and storyline that I am starting to think my failure to have read other works by him is almost criminal.
Anyhow, I suggest that if you are picking out some books for yourself this summer, give a thought to this master of the English language and champion of human decency. It may not be a far far better thing than you have ever done, but it would be a good idea none the less.