Michael Slaters new biography, Charles Dickens, is subtitled A Life Defined by Writing. Its a bit clumsy, perhaps, but certainly apt. With The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens became, at 24, an international star. Suddenly he was lauded and adored and in constant demand… . Continue Reading »
I hold my imaginative capacity, Charles Dickens once wrote, on the stern condition that it must master my own life, often have complete possession of me, make its own demands upon me, and, sometimes for months together, put everything else away from me.
And yet, such isolation always made him uneasy. Privately and publicly, Dickens extolled the vita activa and warned of the dangers and vices that often overwhelm those who withdraw morosely from society, or who hold themselves above the common run of humanity. Dickenss novels repeatedly make snobs, solipsists, and self-absorbed spongers the targets of satirical scorn. In Bleak House Harold Skimpole appears contemptible when he boasts of his egocentric and conniving ways”his brazen habit of cadging money and sympathy from susceptible friends.
Of course, in the same novel, the kind and generous Esther Summerson behaves quite otherwise. … Continue Reading »
Tomorrow, October 12, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged . It was a huge, hotly debated bestseller in its day, and its sales have held steady ever since. Its author, certainly, retains a certain mystique as the exacting thinker still revered by . . . . Continue Reading »
In the elementary schools of the American Midwest, Abraham Lincoln has always enjoyed a good press. Schoolchildren in northern Indiana, I can attest, marked Lincoln’s birthday by drawing crayon portraits of the president while listening to inspirational stories about his life. In middle school . . . . Continue Reading »
The Anti-Egotist: Kingley Amis, Man of Letters. By Paul Fussell Oxford University Press. 206 pages, $23 Kingsley Amis is hard to beat at darts. His 1991 Memoirs , for example, showed a marked fondness for the pointed remark-and a rare skill at hitting the bullseye. Amis Memoirs targeted many . . . . Continue Reading »