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Throughout my teenage years, I read 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens every December. It was a story that never failed to excite me, for as well as being a Dickens enthusiast, I have always loved ghost stories.
Once upon a time, novelists of the 19th century, such as Charles Dickens, published in serial form.
The Five Points was the toughest street corner in the world. That's how it was known. In fact, Charles Dickens visited it in the 1850s and he said it was worse than anything he'd seen in the East End of London.
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.
I claim Dickens as a mentor. He's my teacher. He's one of my driving forces.
'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.
Dickens is a lover of human beings; a relisher of human beings.
Dickens was a part of how the whole celebration of Christmas as we know it today emerged during the 19th century.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
I love Dickens because it makes me chuckle to myself so. He has taken me to another world and out of so many earthly miseries.
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.
I love the tradition of Dickens, where even the most minor walk-on characters are twitching and particular and alive.
Taking the humour out of Dickens, it's not Dickens any more.
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.
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.
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.
Shakespeare speaks for the human heart but Dickens speaks for the social man and for injustices.
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.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Martin Luther King, Jr.
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