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Oprah and Charles Dickens

Oprah has selected two novels by Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations - for her book club.

The Wall Street Journal discusses this unexpected choice and Dickens's treatment of class issues.

I will go out on a limb and say that I don't think class issues are of any interest to any reader I know. I think that every reader, no matter how poor, identifies with and loves the characters of his choice completely free of class. The reader is part of the "great democracy of the mind". Match stick girls identify with princesses, and perhaps more radically, with princes or, in A Tale of Two Cities, with Sidney Carton.

Oprah gets that, I suspect.

I have been told by serious people that class certainly exists in Britain and by equally serious people that it does not. I've sometimes wondered if the classes assiduously caricatured by novelists weren't a fictional creation. The notion that the Victorians were entirely obsessed by class seems to overlook, probably intentionally, that the Victorians were equally focused on God, exploring the globe (and ruling much of it), and inventing the modern world. None of these subjects is of much interest to novelists unless, when the subject is God, they are Russian.

Dickens is a wonderful example of a writer who never lost his boyhood hatred of injustice. Entertainer that he was, he would have enjoyed being on Oprah's show.

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