Books I Loathed discussion

Loathed Authors > Chuck Dick(ens)

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message 1: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) I realize I will have few comrades here (I don't know if I've met anyone with as vehement a hatred as mine), but felt the need to purge nonetheless.

I don't need explanations for why people like him...that's obvious enough. ..... I guess....

As I wrote in my review of Copperfield, it's the fact that he was paid by the word that really grinds my gears. Egad.

message 2: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) I guess that wasn't much of a purge. Let me add that I really really hate him. Yawn yawn, boring boring.

gosh, i'm bad at this. can you tell i don't give a damn about this monument of english lit.?

message 3: by Norman (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments If you don't give a damn, Jason, why would you bother to start this thread? (just pulling your chain...LOL)

I have enjoyed reading several of his novels but can honestly say that I do not plan to re-read any of them or go on to read his other works. The two faults I have trouble with are the contrived plots (coincidence after coincidence!) and the sheer verbosity of Dickens' style.

Far worse than Dickens' books, though, are the various movies they have spawned. With the one exception of the Ethan Hawke version of Great Expectations, I recall many stiff, dull, interminable performances in period costume. They were unbearable!

Now my main point: despite all of the above, I love Dickens. Go figure.

message 4: by Summer Rae (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Summer Rae Garcia | 45 comments I am not sure that I have read a Dickens book, and not sure I will, but I think the thing with Dickens is the feel. I love the sooty orphans, the goofy scoundrels and the festive, even though gloomy aura of it all.

message 5: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

John | 8 comments A good audio reader is essential for getting through Dickens, Trollope, etc. I just downloaded the unabridged Bleak House from Audible yesterday to read again after several years.

message 6: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) That's an excellent recommendation, John. I should have thought of it myself, since I've been giving that advice on a few other books. Do you have any you would particularly recommend, or is Bleak House your first go at Dickens spoken aloud?

message 7: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:45PM) (new)

John | 8 comments Jason -- I read Bleak House on audio years ago, and will re-listen-to it sometime in the not-too-distant future. I tried Our Mutual Friend a couple of years ago, and gave up early as the breginning seemed quite tedious. Earlier this year, I tried again, and was able to get into the story after the first hour or so. My first Dickens (on audio, I've never read a print book of his) was The Pickwick Papers which was funny, rather than driven by a melodramatic plot. I liked The Old Curiosity Shop - Quilp is a really nasty villain, and The Death of Little Nell is so over-the-top!

message 8: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:45PM) (new)

Ryan Horricks | 12 comments I will hate Dickins forever for writing such a canonized piece of absolute serialized garbage called Tale of Two Cities. The significance of this book to the French Revolution is comparable to the significance of Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor" to WWII. And if you like both of these then let's hope Tiny Tim's blessing works out for you. I realize the negativity of that statement, but if you think about all the great work that could be taught instead of that poorly written, poorly thought out, and truly insignificant work it makes me irritated.

message 9: by Dianna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:46PM) (new)

Dianna | 55 comments You guys were really cracking me up there...Telling your son to go play with his wii...he he.

I kind of like Dickens but his writing is rather depressing. But "Great Expectations" was horrible. I kept expecting something to happen. I liked "Tale of Two Cities."

message 10: by Summer (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:46PM) (new)

Summer | 28 comments I have been struggling with Tale of Two Cities for approximately 3 years. Most of the year, it sits on top of my bedside bookcase and is dusted frequently. In the summer, it rests at the bottom of my beach bag. The main reason I attempted to read it is, not because it is a “classic,” but because Cher paraphrased it in Clueless “’tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.” That may sound lame, but I thought it was charming and sums up how I try to live my life. I am a hopeless failure at reading it. Maybe if Amy Heckerling rewrote it, it would be more palatable to me.

message 11: by Esther (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:46PM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) I must disagree - the Ethan Hawkes version is the most turgid Dickens adaptation I have had the misfortune to watch.

I disliked Dickens in school and only on my fourth attempt in my mid-twenties did I actually finish Olive Twist.
The first Dickens I decided to read of my own volition was Bleak House, for purely egotistical reasons (I share a first name with the heroine).

Despite it being a doorstop I enjoyed it and like both serial adaptations.
'Our Mutual Friend' is probably my favourite adaptation.

But you have to be in the right mood for Dickens. Anyone suffering even the mildest depression could be left in permanent despair after reading all his doom and gloom.

message 12: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:46PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) depressing, eh? i was too bored, I suppose, to be depressed or maybe it was just the ones i read. i don't really remember. i purged him from my mind completely.

how would you rate his depressing streaks to Hardy's? all i've read is Jude the Obscure, but it had by far the most depressing ending i've ever encountered.

it seems like a lot of people read CD out of a feeling of obligation...anyone out there devoured all (or a lot) of his work? what gets you going about him, if so?

message 13: by Tara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Tara (tara_n) | 66 comments Okay, when I first saw this thread I thought to myself "I haven't read any Dickens so I have nothing to contribute", then I did a little digging and discovered I had read Dickens and had purged it from my memory warehouse the last time I cleaned it.

I think all the Dickens reading I did, was in high school. I read Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and David Copperfield. I hated all three of them. Great Expectations -- how about great piece of depressing crap! OMG, I would have thrown the book in the fire if it hadn't belonged to the school. The first line of Cities haunts me "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." It was the worst of times for me to read. I think I actually enjoyed the pulling of my wisdom teeth more than reading Dickens. I remember complaining to my mother that I was actually in pain; I even begged my parents to get me the Cliff Notes of all 3 books and they said that was cheating so I had to suffer through.

I'm not brave enough to try to read Dickens again now that I'm an adult.

message 14: by Norman (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments I've read several of Dickens' works - Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, Hard Times, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and The Pickwick Papers. For most of these, what gets me going is the quirkiness of his characters and the humorous effect of his descriptions. In the most dismal of circumstances, Dickens manages to create both pathos and humor. Mrs. Joe Gargery and her use of 'Tickler'; Miss Havisham and her demand that Pip "play" in front of her; the sleaziness of Uriah Heep; the madcap antics of so many characters in The Pickwick Papers; the sheer wickedness of the schoolmasters in Hard Times and Nicholas Nickleby; the ambiguity of Fagan's care for his 'prodigies'. The one exception may be Tale of 2 Cities, which almost completely lacks this sense of humor.

Just that I can recall so many of Dickens' characters years after reading his works underscores his ability to create lasting impressions.

For those of you who are curious but reluctant, it may help to read it at the same time as a friend reads it (whether in a book club or not), and periodically compare notes. Years ago a few friends and I had almost a 'race' to see who could get through David Copperfield the fastest, and that not only helped keep us going but also allowed us to bounce immediate impressions off someone else.

message 15: by Margo (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Margo Solod | 18 comments don't hold back now,ryan, come on, tell us how you REALLY feel.
(actually, I agree with you.)

message 16: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) yeah, it's always with the characters when people mention Dickens. which is understandable. i just wish they were a little more succinctly memorable.

that's some more good advice, though, reading it with someone else. between that and an audio book, i might be able to get through one with a minimum level of enjoyment.

but is it worth it?

John recommended Bleak House. What would you suggest I try? I've read Copperfield and Cities

message 17: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

John | 8 comments I thought I'd recommended Pickwick Papers as the most "approachable"? Bleak House is loooooooooong!

message 18: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) that's right, john. pickwick. sorry. I like the name Pickwick Papers better anyhow...

message 19: by Gail (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:48PM) (new)

Gail "Pickwick" is a pretty huge book, but is very episodic, as are its predecessors and models, so you can pick it up, put it down, pick it up, put it down...etc. I loved "Pickwick" because of the consistent humor of the characters, especially Snodgrass, Sam Weller, and of course, Pickwick himself. I also love "Copperfield", "Christmas Carol" (how can you not like a story whose first sentence is "Marley was dead to begin with."?), and "Expectations". Absolutely could not stand, hated, thought it was a big bore, "Tale of Two Cities". Who on earth would pick Dickens's least characteristic work as the lone example of same for the high school reader? Just a dumb idea, that. I can see that Dickens would not be for everyone, by any means. As for Hardy: on the depression meter, if Dickens is, say, a 6, then Hardy would be at least a 15. There is no humor to relieve the endless...misery...of life. That said, I liked "Jude" a lot; hated, hated, hated with a hate passing understanding, "Far from the Madding Crowd". What a piece of sentimental claptrap masquerading as a classic novel! Ugh! The whole idea of the book reminded me of Danielle Steele in reverse drag. Yechhh!!!

message 20: by Frederick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Frederick Let me weigh in.
As someone who finds Dickens genuinely difficult, as opposed to boring or depressing, let me recommend two works ABOUT him which help a lot in gaining perspective on him. First, there is a book, written about ten or fifteen years ago, I think, called THE FRIENDLY DICKENS, by Norrie Epstein. I wonder if she writes for CLIFF'S NOTES, because her approach is definitely that of someone who knows her readers are finding the author under discussion quite troublesome. Her book is very engaging. She gets to the point quickly in every chapter, putting everything in historical context and giving an impression of how the things he wrote and did affected his life and, more importantly, English literature. Second, I recommend George Orwell's essay, "Charles Dickens." This is the best analysis of Dickens's style ever written. Orwell essentially says Dickens's viewpoint is middle-class, not working-class and that his reputation as a champion of the underdog must be measured against his near worship of repectability.
If you want to read some Dickens right away, I'd suggest start with a collection of his newspaper columns. It's called SKETCHES BY BOZ, and you'll be delighted, I think, to find that these are 19th-century versions of what today would be called human-interest stories. He'll describe, for example, the audience at a theatre, and, because he's not telling a story, he's not trying to get our sympathies going for a character. His powers of observation are on display. This book came out when he was in his twenties and had no desire to show off.
In any case, this group is devoted to books we "loathe." While I can't say I loathe Dickens, I have to say, again, that I find him very difficult. I literally lose the sense of what he's saying, several times a page, because the assumptions he appears to be making about someone or something he's talking about do not appear to be the assumptions he maintains at the end of the discussion. I have read many 19th century writers, ALL of whom were paid by the word, and being paid by the word does not seem to hinder the sense of what most of them are saying. But Dickens confuses me. (This isn't true with SKETCHES BY BOZ.) I'm not prepared to say this is a fundamental problem with Dickens, because his lists, for example, are quite coherent. He lists the food at a dinner quite often, and one gets a sense of the feast. The tendency to list is a throwback to the eighteenth-century. James Joyce, in the twentieth, parodies that tendency, but, inasmuch as it is a tendency shared by Defoe, Swift and others, it's not just a Dickensian quality.
If we accept that Mark Twain (a contemporary of Dickens) created an American mythology we have to say the same for Dickens in relation to Britain. A writer who does that cannot be said to have failed. Certainly Twain is rarely called boring, but Dickens does. Again, my issue with Dickens is not that he's boring, it's that I don't know what he's trying to tell me half the time, even though I know that OLIVER TWIST, for example, CAUSED the British to reform their orphanage system. That must be called an achievement. Dickens aimed a sword at systemic abuse and made his readership take action to correct the situation. But when I'm actually trying to read OLIVER TWIST I have trouble figuring out who it is Dickens wants me to like or dislike.
Most of his books were read outloud in private homes in the 19th century, with people gathered around. We must assume that people hearing these books being read aloud reacted with "ooohs," "aaahs," "ah-hahs," laughter and tears, prompting one another to react. Today, a reader sits alone with a Dickens book. The experience is different from the intended experience.
This awkward novelist was more popular in his day than those whose prose flowed smoothly. He must have addressed something instantly recognizable to his readership.

message 21: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I recommend (and especially this time of year) starting with A Christmas Carol. It's very short, and you're already familiar with the story which helps, and it's not depressing at all. It's a really good ghost story. The first line, "Marley was dead -- to begin with." I mean, how great is that? Think of his contemporaries who would have known nothing about the story picking up the novella and reading that first line. What an attention-grabber.

And try reading this paragraph aloud like you're sitting around a campfire:

"Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas."

I don't like all of Dickens, though. I have never been able to get all the way through David Copperfield or A Tale of Two Cities.

message 22: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) Frederick: sounds like I might enjoy his newspaper columns. good advice.

message 23: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new)

Ryan Horricks | 12 comments I know a lot of you Dicken's fans will have a hard time with my reponse, and most of you will find it rude but oh well..when I say I hate Dickens..I do so because I've read a lot of his books...if I say I hate Bleak House but like everything else, then I would place my comments about Bleak House in a separate column..for me to say I hate an author I've had to read a great majority of his books to get that sort of passion this point I don't need the "I recommend" this book me..I understand the sentiment..when someone doesn't like the books and authors I like..I feel the same impulse...but haven't we all read "The Christmas Carol" and if that is all you have to recommend the author with then there are plenty of other authors I would much rather read instead of trying to find why people think Dickens is any good..he may be..but he is not my cup of tea..I don't find his humor very humorous..I have read the Pickwick Papers and thought it was a complete waste of my time..and I don't say that about too many books because I usually don't find reading a waste of my time..actually the opposite..the best use of my time...but I would never..ever pick up another Dickens book in my lifetime

message 24: by Gail (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:03PM) (new)

Gail Interestingly enough, Ryan, right now I'm re-reading "Oliver Twist". While I don't have any trouble identifying good and bad guys, I find the constant hammering, hammering, hammering of the "social points" to be more than a bit over-the-top. The book isn't nearly as good as I remember it being from previous readings. Also, a previous poster made mention that Dickens's work was a direct cause of the reformation of the orphanage (I presume he means the Poor Laws) rules--this isn't true. The Poor Laws were not reformed until the 19020's. I far prefer Trollope, even though I like some of Dickens...but to each his own. I can see his (glaring)weaknesses.

message 25: by Frederick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:04PM) (new)

Frederick I prefer Trollope as well, but I do stick to my point that OLIVER TWIST did help to reform orphanages. If UNCLE TOM'S CABIN did not start the Civil War (and Lincoln, of course, meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, said, "Here is the woman who started our Civil War") OLIVER TWIST didn't make anything better for anybody.
I have cut-and-pasted three paragraphs from a British webpage,, which, while showing no evidence that OLIVER TWIST affected any laws during Dickens's lifetime, do show that Dickens was an editor of two radical journals. I'll put the quotation in brackets:
[Although Dickens was now a very successful novelist, he continued to be interested in social reform. While in America in 1842 he upset his hosts by condemning slavery. Dickens also decided to invest some of his royalties in a new radical newspaper, The Daily News. Dickens became editor and in the first edition published on 21st January 1846, he wrote: "The principles advocated in The Daily News will be principles of progress and improvement; of education, civil and religious liberty, and equal legislation."

The Daily News was not a great commercial success and Dickens resigned as editor. However, he was determined to create a means where he could communicate his ideas on social reform and in 1850 he began editing Household Words. The weekly journal included articles on politics, science and history. To increase the number of people willing to buy Household Words, it also contained short stories and humourous pieces. Dickens also used the journal to serialize novels that were concerned with social issues such as his own Hard Times (1854) and Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (1855). By 1851 the twenty-four page Household Words was soon selling 40,000 copies a week.

Dickens published Household Words between 1850 and 1859 and during that time campaigned in favour of parliamentary reform and improvements in the education of the poor. Dickens's was extremely hostile to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Actand wrote several articles on the workhouse system. Dickens was also concerned with public health and the reform of the legal system.]

If, then, Dickens's novels were ineffective in softening the hearts of people in power, it was not for lack of trying.

message 26: by Gail (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:04PM) (new)

Gail Oh, right, I didn't mean to imply that Dickens didn't have a sincere interest in social problems or that he didn't spend a great deal of energy, time, and money in trying to show the evils of the support systems for the poor of his time. It's just that the laws didn't change...which kind of gives me pause about the speed with which issues, ideas, and such can change in our society. Sloooooooooooowly seems to be the operative word here.

message 27: by Cynthia (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Cynthia Someone might have mentioned this already, apologies if I missed it but recall that in Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, the main character's 'divine punishment' is that he's trapped by a madman in Africa who keeps him prisoner and forces him to read aloud long passages from Dickens every day.

message 28: by Milly (new)

Milly | 2 comments I am made sad. There are some books here that I really, really love. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, of course... still.

True, I find Dickens to be really hit-and-miss. I'm not a fan of A Tale of Two Cities or A Christmas Carol. I don't believe or relate to the characters, and so I'm not really engaged in the same way. In all his books Dickens has a tendency to create impossibly virtuous characters, and the books that are too fascinated by them aren't really the ones that capture my imagination. (Apparently, Dickens was in love with the actress on whom Lucy Manette was based - which I find a little disturbing. Because she is just *missing* things upstairs.)

But there are books like Bleak House or Great Expectations that really blew me away. Dickens is a master of creating beautiful, textured worlds that draw together a wealth of characters. I love these books not so much for plot (the protagonist is always someone's long-lost something, and it stops coming as a surprise), but for language and character. I'm not denying that there are flaws. Esther I could do without, except as a foil to the more interesting characters. Some places needed a better editor. Fair enough. But there are beautifully crafted-passages in there, and there are phenomenal characters like Tulkinghorn and Flite and Guppy.

I feel like, all to often, people approach Great Authors with so much baggage that the story gets lost. Too much reverence or rebellion and all of a sudden you're not reading what's on the page. I think it's worth trying to approach these authors as real people - it's easier said than done, but you might be surprised by what you find.

message 29: by Ed (new)

Ed | 2 comments I must say right up front that I love "A Tale of Two Cities." In fact, it's probably my favorite book, and reading it during the summer after my sophomore year was the reason I decided to change majors from pre-med to English Lit. Anyway, if you think the book is about the French Revolution, you might try giving it another read. It's a story about redemption and the human experience.

It is always about the characters with Dickens, and perhaps the reasons the characters don't stand out in our minds are twofold: first, there are so many of them, and second, they are so much like us. We see the Sidney Carton's of the world on a daily basis, and don't even realize it. In fact, many of us could conceivably describe ourselves as Carton or Jarvis Lorry or Lucy Manette.

I find it interesting that even those of us who love reading detest the books we were asked to read as children. I wonder if this is a product of being forced to do something, or whether our taste and understanding requires a few failed attempts at reading classic literature before we can truly grasp the importance of the work.

I also must defend Dickens' having been paid by the word. Pick up a copy of The Writer's Market, and you'll see that not only is that not rare, but probably far more common than you think. If you think that the book is too long, that's fine, but it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the way the author was paid...

message 30: by Rachel (new)

Rachel i, myself, am a big dickens fan, but i completely understand how people could not like him. he can be tricky to choke down sometimes and i think that old british humor isn't always easy to pick up on. i definitely, however, think people give up on dickens too early - reading only one of his books and then proclaiming him boring. i don't think that's really fair for any author... but if you have read three or more of dickens's novels and still aren't impressed, you probably won't be no matter how many of his novels you read.

as for not liking dickens because you enjoy "catcher in the rye"....eek! ;)

message 31: by Norman (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments To enjoy Dickens, you probably have to savor his descriptions of characters, settings, and situations rather than get all fussed and bothered about how long it sometimes takes for anything important to happen. The same holds true for Hardy. Those brought up with the TV on 24/7 are unlikely to have the attention span required to read imaginatively with authors such as Dickens or Hardy. That's life.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) I like Dickens, but, honestly, A Tale of Two Cities is probably his worst book.

I wouldn't say I hate it (I was only assigned it once in high school. The ones from high school that I REALLY hate I was mostly assigned two, three, or FOUR times.), but I certainly wouldn't re-read it by choice.

Some of his other novels are wonderful, though, like Bleak House or Dombey and Son.

message 33: by Tara (new)

Tara (born_of_frustration) I'll confess to a teenage love affair with A Tale of Two Cities that I've never been able to entirely shake, but there it ends. I was forced to take an entire class on Dickens in college, and I almost clawed my face off. Sentimental, saccharine drivel. And achingly dull to boot.

message 34: by Skylar (new)

Skylar Burris (skylarburris) | 32 comments "I'll confess to a teenage love affair with A Tale of Two Cities that I've never been able to entirely shake, but there it ends. I was forced to take an entire class on Dickens in college, and I almost clawed my face off."

Tara, I could almost have written that word for word. I wasn't forced to take an entire class, but I've attempted to read enough Dickens to feel that way. Something about A Tale of Two Cities captured my juvinile feminine heart in 9th grade, and it still lingers even today, but I've never been able to digest Dickens since, the only exceptions being A Christmas Carol and the Mystery of Edwin Drood. No other book of his have I been able to complete, though I have attempted several, determined as I was to like him, but unable to do so.

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