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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Charles Dickens' 198th birthday

It’s Charles Dickens’ 198th birthday today. 

Surprisingly, today’s Toronto Star’s classified section runs a small insertion paid for by the Dickens Fellowship (Toronto branch) wishing the master a Happy Birthday.

Those who know me also know my deep and abiding interest in Dickens. My first impulse when I’m reading or writing anything is to relate it to Dickens.

For instance, last week, Che needed an example of a protagonist who has lived in a particular area as a young person and then returns to the place as a grown up. Instantly, I thought of Pip and Miss Havisham’s decaying mansion – Satis House from Great Expectations.

(An aside: I won’t be surprised if Che, becomes a journalist. Proof: He was given the assignment Tuesday to be submitted Friday. He started working on it late Thursday night, sat up late night, awoke early Friday morning and roped in the entire family to get it done. I’ve know many reporters in my days with the same approach to their work. Exasperating.)

In the frenzied world of mass media, where the focus is on the here and now, history is remembered only on anniversaries.

So, Dickens will be dusted off the library shelves and his ever-lasting impact discussed in a couple years to coincide with his 200th birth anniversary. (Who knows, by then library shelves may not exist as i-Pads and Kindles replace books.)

It happened last year to Darwin and Lincoln (both born on February 12, 1809).

It would’ve been appropriate for at least one mainline newspaper in the English-speaking and reading world to write about one of English language’s biggest writers and his continuing influence on contemporary writers.

I checked Google News. The only worthwhile feature on Dickens today is by James Humes, a historian, writing in The Pueblo Chieftain (Southern Colorado).

Mass media, and especially newspapers, have conditioned media consumers to focus only on what’s new and forget the past. History is for the specialist. 

And that is so not right.

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