“Welcome to the Dickens Camp!” What Dickens fan could resist a title like that? Not me! One of the pleasures of traveling is reading on the go. So on our way to Vermont to take Alex back to Middlebury, when we stopped off for a bite, I eagerly snapped up a copy of The New Yorker featuring a story about a Dickens Camp in California that’s been going strong for decades.
Every year, scholars, students, teachers, and Dickens enthusiasts of all stripes congregate for a week to attend lectures, readings, events, and generally indulge their obsessive admiration for the author of a raft of beloved classics, from A Tale of Two Cities (one of my favorites; see The Crying Game) to A Christmas Carol.
For a week, attendees share their passions and prejudices with their fellow travelers on the literary highway of life. What could be more fun? A few Dickens nuggets:
• He liked to write from 9 to 2 every day.
• For 13 months, he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby at the same time.
• After his first book appeared, he earned enough to quit reporting and write books full time.
Facts mixed with friendly fanaticism — that’s what Dickens Camp sounds like to me. One woman at the camp first devoured Oliver Twist when she was 11 and has read Dickens every day of her life ever since then. Why? Here’s her answer: “He gathers you into his world, and while you’re in his world, you are ravished! You are ravished!”
Wow! What a review! Who wouldn’t be thrilled by such undying devotion? I love the idea of people coming back year after year to the same place to talk about an author they adore. What a wonderful way to spend your time: gamboling among impassioned readers who are ditzy over Dickens!