Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tanya Writes About Charles Dickens

On this date in 1812, Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England.

So what? He didn't write romance. But I do. And there is a tie in.

Of course, he's another of my inspirations. During her travels to the UK twenty years ago, my mother brought back a print of Dickens writing in his study. "You hang this up by your desk," she ordered, knowing how I loved to write. Indeed, the print often held the place of honor on my bulletin boards during my years as an English teacher.

Where I taught rapt freshmen to adore (wait for it) Great Expectations, that marvelous, timeless coming-of-age story that I actually see in the plotline of Good Will Hunting.

Those were the same years our local newspaper sponsored a serialized romance novel and held a contest to pick eight authors to contribute to it. I was thrilled to be selected, and yes, my picture appeared in the edition just as school started that fall.

What a great object lesson it was for my students. GE had been serialized itself. In fact, Dickens had to meet a specific word count...and sometimes included a scene or character that baffled the kids. Until they knew the reason why.

Well, to honor him further, Riverside, California (about 2 1/2 hours from home) holds a Dickens Festival every year. This very weekend, the 2009 "Nickel's Worth of Nickleby" Fest is happening in historic downtown Riverside. Events for all ages include plays, street performers, food vendors, educational workshops, musical performances and Victorian exhibits.

I didn't even know until I read this morning's L.A. Times. I intend to get there next year.

The festival has previously presented eleven original adaptations of Charles Dickens' works, including international award-winning marionette artist, David Simpich version of "Great Expectations". Wow, I wish I'd seen that. I'd love to take the grandbaby if they do it again--one of his favorite quiet-times is watching the "Lonely Goatherd" puppet show in The Sound of Music.

Furthermore, GE and A Christmas Carol are two of the original book adaptations written by local writers and directed by Inland Empire artists. My holiday season isn't complete until I read that short wondrous novel and watch George C. Scott's Scrooge on Christmas Eve while I wrap gifts and stuff the stockings.

Numerous cultural events are added each year, such as "Queen Victoria and her Royal Court" and Mr. Fezziwig's Victorian Ball. Other presentations that call out to me are the Victorian teas, costume fashion shows and contests, lectures, book discussions, Evensong Concert, and historical and art exhibits.

But with my family in mind (I am the history buff and museum-a-holic), I'm thrilled that the festival also features Pub Night, a mini-faire for children, and London Marketplace. Here vendors and craft demonstrators sell their wares and costumed characters mingle.

Oh, I have been an Anglophile ever since the Beatles landed in New York...on this date in 1964 when I was still in elementary school. When our daughter planned a study abroad during her junior year in college, she picked England, to my elation. And of course my hero and I hopped a Virgin Atlantic jet soon after she settled in for a visit. When she wasn't in class, she was a fabulous tour guide.

Oh, we had such fun minding the gap.


Rob Velella said...

What a great tribute to Dickens - and thanks for the mentioning the Beatles too! If you're interested in literary things, I blogged about Dickens's connection to Edgar A. Poe (link in my name, I think).

Tanya Hanson said...

Thank you, Rob, for the visit. I'll hop over to your blogspot asap. EAP is ALSO a favorite.