“… like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield.” (Charles Dickens, 1867)
I was going to cheat and pick two, but after careful consideration I have my ONE of all time. My full of history, well-worn and as comfortable (and comforting) as an old hand knit blanket favorite classic is David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
I was an English major in college in the 1980s, during the reign of analyzing everything through Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, etc. etc. etc. I tried it, I saw some value in it, but it did not make my heart sing. In fact, it most often sapped the life out of what I was reading. I was working my way through college, and took a Victorian literature class because it was in the evening and I wouldn’t have to miss work for it. Little did I know that it would be my arrival home. I loved everything about the period, the way scholars thought and wrote about the period, and the books. Oh, the books!
My absolute favorite book from that class was David Copperfield. For the first time in my college life I laughed, I cried, I was in love with language and story and characters. Betsy Trotwood (Blind, blind, blind!)! Mr. Micawber! Mr. Dick! Uriah Heep! Barkis is willin’! Traddles and his skeletons! I was consumed. I quickly declared my concentration in Victorian literature, and my next semester was filled with a seminar just on Dickens! I also did an Independent Study with the only Dickens scholar on campus (it was terribly unfashionable and fusty, you know, to love Dickens when you could be Adorno-ing or Marcuse-ing the living daylights out of a Modernist text, but I have always been Jane Eyre-ish in following my inner compass!).
David Copperfield has remained a touchstone in my life. I reread it every so often so that I can integrate my experiences into what the book has to tell me. As Calvino stated about classics, “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” My over twenty years of listening to what David Copperfield has to say about human nature, family, society, and most importantly, love has been most fruitful, and I have included it on my Classics Club list so that I can listen some more.