Kyle's Reviews > American Notes For General Circulation

American Notes For General Circulation by Charles Dickens
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Jan 04, 2012

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Read from August 01, 2010 to January 03, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Strange to think that 170 years ago this day, Charles Dickens and his wife boarded a ship to sail to the United States for a six-month vacation. Even stranger for me to have been reading this book for approximately 17 months (off and on) - nearly three times as long as their journey through the States and Canada. I should add that I was on a journey, having just started my Masters, with lots of coincidences between the Dickens' path and my own. The most striking is seeing the excellent film The Fighter (set in a fast-fading Lowell, Massachusetts) and then to read Chapter the Fourth, and his visit to the same factory town at its height. Like many travelers far from home, Dickens fell victim to disenchantment, the honeymoon soon was over, and all he could see were tobacco-stained carpets, argumentative bores, and traces of history tinged by slavery and hostility. The climax came with his visit to the Shaker village, summed up in his sea change that would produce A Christmas Carol and more of his most memorable stories: "I so abhor, and from my soul detest that bad spirit, no matter by what class or sect it may be entertained, which would strip life of its healthful graces, rob youth of its innocent pleasures, pluck from maturity and old age their pleasant ornaments, and make existence but a narrow path towards the grave..." (p. 238) I can't wait to read how this experience was fictionalized in Martin Chuzzlewit, hopefully a quicker read for me with a protagonist present to focus upon, rather than Dickens there-but-not-there presence throughout American Notes.

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