My wife was looking for something to bring the industrial revolution alive for her classes, and coming up with "Oliver Twist" I set off to see if I had any pertinent quotes for her to use.
You see, about five years ago I got the idea that if I wrote down some of the passages in books and magazines that impressed me perhaps I would, in the act of scribing, remember the particulars of what I read better. I began with an essay by Richard Meier, a thirsty page of college-lined paper, my irascible fountain pen, an empty binder, and the pretentious title of "Collage," (because I was taking the found art of others and incorporating them into something for myself). Now, while the aide it has been to my memory is questionable, at least when asked about a book I've read I have a chance at presenting something concrete.
As I filled my Collage pages, themes began to emerge in what I chose for perserving: beauty, in word play or sentiment; wit; quotes with an aphoristic edge; writing about writing (something I think every writer has a fetish for); and class struggle.
Which brings me back to Dickens. From time to time now I will share some of my favorite quotations and passages, and this one following, from "Oliver Twist" has such a rich blend of my just-stated interests, that it seemed a perfect beginning.
"You shall read them, if you behave well," said the old gentleman kindly; "and you will like that, better than looking at the outsides - that is, in some cases; because there are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts."
"I suppose they are those heavy ones, sir," said Oliver, pointing to some large quartos with a good deal of gilding about the binding.
"Not always those," said the old gentleman, patting Oliver on the head, and smiling as he did so; "There are other equally heavy ones, though of a much smaller size. How should you like to grow up a clever man, and write books, eh?"
"I think I would rather read them, sir," replied Oliver.
"What! Wouldn't you like to be a book-writer?" said the old gentleman.
Oliver considered a little while, and at last said he should think it would be a much better thing to be a book-seller, upon which the old gentleman laughed heartily, and declared he had said a very good thing. Which Oliver felt glad to have done, though he by no means knew what it was.
"Well, well," said the old gentleman, composing his features. "Don't be afraid! We won't make an author of you, while there's an honest trade to e learnt, or brick-making to turn to."