If you don't know it's Charles Dickens' 200th birthday today, then you've been living without TV or Internet. You'll find it hard to ignore him on the Web today, since he has a Google Doodle dedicated to him (left).Dickens is still one of my favorite authors. He was one of the first writers to fire up my need to read, to show me that the characters on the page could come to life in my imagination. I still remember shivering over the evil Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop and cheering on Oliver as he navigated London's mean streets.
Dickens' stories are timeless and his characters are still inspiring new writers today. For example, the colorful names in Jo Rowling's Harry Potter books owe a lot to Charles Dickens, who was a master at defining a person's character with their name. My favorite is Mr. M'Choakumchild, a horrible teacher in Hard Times.
And a "new experiment" in literature is definitely inspired by Dickens. Writer Mark Danielewski has received a $1 million deal to write a serialized novel that will debut in installments in 2014. Sound familiar? Dickens published most of his works in serialized installments, too. It's what makes each chapter of his books such individual cliffhangers.
If you enjoy Dickens as much as I do, prepare to avoid work all day and explore these celebratory sites instead (click through on the bolded links):
- Dickens Dark London. An amazing app lets you roam the dark Victorian streets like Charles Dickens did in his insomniac ramblings.
- Favorite Dickens Characters. Which of his many characters do you most relate to? The Telegraph has compiled a list of favorites from Brit writers.
- Dickens Book Club. Join the Facebook club, which is planning to read the author's books throughout the year. This month's selection is Bleak House.
- Dickens Exhibition. Travel to London (why not?) to see the first comprehensive Dickens exhibition in 40 years at the Museum of London.
- Dickens Online. Learn more about the man, the myth, the legend (ok, that was too much) at his very own website.
In all the Dickens hoopla, let's not forget that it's also Laura Ingalls Wilder's 145th birthday. That's an interesting coincidence because I would say her books had as much of an impact on my early reading as Dickens did. I read her Little House on the Prairie books over and over again. If you've never read them, please don't use the melodramatic TV show as your guide – they books are much better than that.
In honor of Wilder, here are some links for her birthday, too:
- Find a comprehensive list of Little House books here.
- Live like Laura in a tour of homes from Wilder's books.
- Visit Wilder's home and museum in Missouri here.
It's a Red-Letter DaySo what else is celebrated today? My parents' 49th anniversary, of course.
Happy day, mom and dad!