Two faced

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I’m having a Dickensian patch.

First, this was Simon Callow’s take, focusing on Dickens’ passion for dramatic performance.

DickensIt’s easily seen to be one of the ruling passions of his life, and although I knew about the readings I had not realised how professional and extensive his acting career was.

Then there’s the bargain audio book:

Hard Times

It has to be said that Hard Times is hard going – which is why my paper copy of the novel has been sent off to a Good Cause.  The bitter comedy in no way mitigates the grimness of the story, and I’m listening in short instalments as I wash up and do the chores.  I’m also noting (perhaps as a result of reading Simon Callow’s book) how often Dickens included something very like stage directions for how a character should walk, stand, arrange his limbs and so forth.  I wonder, did that help the BBC when they were producing adaptations for TV, or did they feel they had his ghost complaining at every change and breathing on their necks?

And finally the new film, The Invisible Woman, based on Claire Tomalin’s book of the same title.  The book was excellent; the film merely good.  There was a little too much cinematographic lingering on carefully lit cheek, lips, and neck; but this is a grown-up film.  It preserves well the sense of silences and reservations in Dickens’ family relationships, and reveals his streak of ruthlessness and double-think.  Social position conferred power upon him, and he did not scruple to use it in personal relationships, while the world outside doted on the jovial, convivial, compassionate Boz, a role played almost to perfection by Dickens.

I don’t think any of these works made me love Dickens more; but they all earned their place in my week.

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