Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

A Personal Inventory, Ctd

It may not be Binders Full of Women or Texts From Hillary, but it seems like Brian started something like a meme with his reflections on bookshelves a few weeks back. How else to interpret the recent groundswell (relatively speaking) of articles appearing about shelves and the books they hold?

On October 11th, The Global Mail featured Geraldine Brooks addressing the “People of the Bookshelf” and talking about her shelving habits:

I start out conventionally enough, alpha by author. But while I take account of the first letter of the writer’s surname, I have other ambitions for my shelves that transcend the conveniences of mere alphabetical accuracy. It’s impossible for me to place one book alongside another without thinking about the authors, and how they would feel about their spine-side companion.

One week later, The New Yorker’s Page Turner blog had Brad Leithauser talking about the big books that taunt him, unread, from his shelves —

If your bookshelf speaks to you, it’s likely to be uttering reproaches. Or so my experience runs. All those unread books!

— and how those reproaches led him to tackle Charles Dickens.

I should also acknowledge the original pioneer, and keeper of one of the more awe-inspiring walls of books I’ve ever seen in real life, Bill at Insulted by Authors.

What about you? What do your shelves say to you? What do they look like? Do you alphabetize? Color code? Chronologicalize? What would the guy who comes to every party and stares at the bookshelves think? Have you ever won someone over with your shelving technique?

We want to know and we want to see.

– Michael Moats

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Filed under Hooray Fiction!

CH v. HC

I FINALLY GOT BURNED by Christopher Hitchens.

I’ve been able to stomach some of the Iraq justifications, and even kind of look past the “women aren’t funny” thing. But this one, from a final piece  for Vanity Fair about Charles Dickens, is tough:

Opening his own memoir, the most inept fictional narrator of my generation showed that he was out of his depth by dismissing “all that David Copperfield kind of crap.” Mr. Holden Caulfield may one day be forgotten, but the man who stumbled across the little boy trapped in the sweatshop basement, and realized their kinship, will never be.

If you didn’t know, I’m kind of a fan of Holden Caulfield. I’m confident there are any number of more inept fictional narrators from Hitchens’ generation. And apparently Hitch never saw this pulp-style cover for “The Catcher in the Rye” guaranteeing that “you will never forget it.”

Let’s also note that in this same piece, he refers to Christmas as a “protracted obligatory celebration now darkening our Decembers.” If that gives you a better sense of where he’s coming from.

All that aside, the rest of the Hitchens piece is worth reading.

And, in the fashion of one of the most inept greatest fictional narrators of Hitchens’ anyone’s generation, I can’t help, as I tell you this, but miss the guy a little bit.

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Filed under The Real Holden Caulfield