I find anniversary excuses in the arts often dull and unoriginal and, dare I say it, lazy as far as the arts world is concerned. I like the novels of Charles Dickens, for instance, because most of them have thrilled and entertained me over most of my life and I’m not reading Claire Tomalin’s lucidly written biography of the man just because this is the bicentennial year of his birth. The trouble is that we get drowned in an artist when the arts planners and publishers settle on someone with a big birthday and then when the party’s over, we get nothing.
Dickens for me is something to celebrate every year but if this anniversary brings in a few new readers to be as thrilled as I have been then I’ll stop moaning about it.
Something that has also amazed me re-reading the great man, is not just his genius (and flaws, to be honest, the sloppiness that came from some of his dangerous deadlines and sometimes too, his sentimentality). No it’s not just his genius that I’m celebrating today but I am also excited that I can read M’s Tomalin’s book on my Kindle machine and take it everywhere with me. She wouldn’t want to know some of the places where I’ve been reading it.
Every so often, she writes about one of the novels and I struggle to remember the original. Now though, again through the wonders of Kindle, I just flip to The Complete Works Of Charles Dickens with the original illustrations. I bought it from Kindle for the ridiculous sum of £1.92 whilst the Tomalin biography, pre-ordered before publication, cost me a mere £5.99. I hope this doesn’t have painful consequences for the publishing industry because I can’t see how this can be profitable but then again, it must be helping to get Dickens an army of new readers – I hope so.
It is an extraordinary thought for this simple-minded soul, that I can now travel around with my curent reading list but also with the Oxford English Dictionary and the complete works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Ibsen, Chekhov and George Bernard Shaw. All this and I’ve only just begun. Marvellous.