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At the school I attended, the clergyman who ran the cathedral school in Shanghai would give lines to the boys as a punishment. They expected you to copy out, say, 20 or 30 pages from one of the school texts. But I found that rather than laboriously copying out something from a novel by Charles Dickens, it was easier if I made it up myself.
J. G. Ballard
Dickens is a very underrated writer at the moment. Everyone in his time admired him but I think right now he's not spoken of enough.
'Great Expectations' has been described as 'Dickens's harshest indictment of society.' Which it is. After all, it's about money. About not having enough money; about the fever of the getting of money; about having too much money; about the taint of money.
When I read Dickens for the first time, I thought he was Jewish, because he wrote about oppression and bigotry, all the things that my father talked about.
Dickens is a lover of human beings; a relisher of human beings.
Throughout his life, Dickens cared passionately about orphans.
The emotions triggered by fiction are very real. When Charles Dickens wrote about the death of Little Nell in the 1840s, people wept - and I'm sure that the death of characters in J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' series led to similar tears.
'A Christmas Carol' has been described as the most perfect of Dickens's works and as a quintessential heart-warming story, and it is certainly the most popular.
When you live with Dickens for years, reading him and trying to present him as faithfully as you can, you can't fail to love the man - so the shock of his bad behaviour is considerable, even when you know it is coming.
The novel at its nineteenth-century pinnacle was a Judaized novel: George Eliot and Dickens and Tolstoy were all touched by the Jewish covenant: they wrote of conduct and of the consequences of conduct: they were concerned with a society of will and commandment.
A handful of works in history have had a direct impact on social policy: one or two works of Dickens, some of Zola, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and, in modern drama, Larry Kramer's 'The Normal Heart.'
Although many of his other novels are brilliant there is a power in 'Oliver Twist' that I believe Dickens never managed to retrieve. It is as if he was sent to this earth with the sole purpose of writing this book.
We were put to Dickens as children but it never quite took. That unremitting humanity soon had me cheesed off.
I'm sure I've been influenced by every fine writer I've ever read, from Dickens and Austen to Auden and Jane Hirshfield. And also, the short stories of Updike, Cheever, Munro, Alice Adams, and Doris Lessing. And the plays of Oscar Wilde. And paintings by Alice Neel and Matisse.
I admire Dickens beyond words. He is one of the greatest plotters of all times. Didn't have a clue about women, but he sure could plot.
The way that Dickens structured his books has a form that we most readily recognize now from, say, the great T.V. series, like 'The Wire' or 'The Sopranos.' There's one central plot line, but then from that spin off all kinds of subplots.
The gift of a writer as good as Dickens is not to explain everything; that way, the reader has, in terms of their imagination, somewhere to go.
My English teachers gave me a copy of Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' when I left high school, which has always been very special to me - it was the novel that introduced me to dystopian fiction. I'm also influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, Dickens, John Wyndham and Middle English dream-visions.
Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain, and so many others were my dearest friends and greatest teachers.
It's always crude to link Dickens back to the blacking factory where he was sent to work aged 12 when his father was imprisoned in Marshalsea Prison for bad debt, but it was obviously a huge part of him.
When I was 14 or 15, our teacher introduced us to Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities.' It was just for entertainment - we read it aloud - and all of a sudden it became a treasure.
I'm totally obsessed with Dickens, and 'Great Expectations' was one of the first book's I read when I was still in school in Porthcawl.
'Joker' was a violent, dark, and brutal book, so I wanted to do something a little less heavy. I played around with the idea of a children's book, and that eventually became 'Noel.' And I just kept finding these parallels between things I could do with Batman and Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol.'
Between Scott on the earlier side and Dickens and Thackeray on the other, there was an immense production of novels, illustrated by not a few names which should rank high in the second class, while some would promote more than one of them to the first.
My office walls are covered with autographs of famous writers - it's what my children call my 'dead author wall.' I have signatures from Mark Twain, Earnest Hemingway, Jack London, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Pearl Buck, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, to name a few.
John F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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