Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Childhood, the ‘Other’
One of the mantras I always discuss in workshops with writers is childhood: that treasure trove of experience and memory so endless for story possibilities. It’s all there. Everything a writer will ever need to write his stories.
Another one is the writer divided in himself: you/the character; the observer/the observed; the person/the shadow, etc. However the tale is written or told, there are two (at least) levels of consciousness to contend with.
Going ‘into’ the story is going into yourself. Therein lies both the truth and the fiction. This is Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday. Whether you are a lover of Dickens or not, it is impossible to ignore him. (There would be no Christmas without him.)
Much has been written and said about the man and will continue to be written and said because his legacy to literature is enormous.
For the purposes of this “Once Upon a Time,” devoted to story, I present a couple of thoughts worthy of consideration—by two great writers
Dickens truly found himself at home, alive, duty-bound as a writer to extoll the virtues of childhood. That was a subject, a period of time in his own life that spoke to him like no other. “Whatever you do—hang on to your childhood,” the late Christopher Hitchens relates in a recent piece about Dickens (Vanity Fair, February 2012). Good advice for any writer.
Hitchens also mentions a fascinating historical anecdote concerning a possible meeting between Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Charles Dickens in London.
According to a letter Dostoyevsky wrote to a friend in 1878, the memory recalled went something like this: