For the past week and a bit, I have been plowing through a very long, very detailed, and [to me at least] quite interesting new biography of Dickens. It is by Michael Slater, who is apparently the leading expert on Dickens [what do I know?]. The book focuses entirely on the minutiae of Dickens' writing and publishing career. What an extraordinary dynamo he must have been. At one point, in his twenties, he was writing Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby simultaneously, while cranking out reviews, letters to the editor, and other things. And he apparently took daily fifteen mile walks. He really makes me feel like a slug-a-bed.
If you like Dickens, as I do, and are interested in what it was like, from the inside, for him to write an endless series of great novels, I recommend the book. But fair warning, it is slow going. I read it on the plane to Seattle and back, and only managed to get through about 175 pages in twelve or fourteen hours of flying.
I mention this only so that you will not think that I spend all my time playing FreeCell and Spider Solitaire.
One other personal note, while I am in a confessional mood. Next month, I shall be going to Cambridge, MA for the 50th anniversary of the Social Studies Program at Harvard. Readers of my memoir will recall that I was the first Head Tutor of the program, back in '60-'61. I will be the only person there who was on the original committee that set Social Studies up, so I shall get to speak for ten minutes at the lunch on Saturday, September 25th. I learned to my dismay that the egregious Martin Peretz will be honored at the same lunch with a scholarship fund being set up in his name. When I knew him, Peretz was an offensive little wannabe, but he married rich, bought The New Republic with his wife's money, and turned a fine old liberal magazine into a flack for Israel. It seems there is even a Martin Peretz Chair in Yiddish Literature at Harvard. I promised Anya Bernstein, the current head of Social Studies, that I would behave myself, so I shall act the genial fossil and tell stories from the old days.