The Classics Club August Meme: What is your favorite classic book?

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“… 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.

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21 comments

  1. The Classics Club

    I am really enjoying seeing how different books speak to different people. I haven’t read much of Dickens yet, (only 2 books so far) but I am looking forward to reading more and really dive into the period. -Sarah

  2. jackiemania

    So true! I love reading everyone’s responses. Not only is my to read list growing, but I feel like I got a glimpse into what makes the individual tick. Its so generous to see this kind of sharing in The Club!

  3. Amy

    I love Betsey Trotwood! She is priceless–she had me in high school when I first read this book. I laughed out loud when she decided to rename Davy as Trotwood, after herself. 🙂

    • jackiemania

      Cat, I love your reply too. I just read a bunch of Pooh because I was trying to figure out what Jack Kerouac meant by his last paragraph in On The Road:

      “So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

  4. sweetteaapothecary

    I love A Tale of Two Cities and always will. I remember reading in high school and for the first hundred pages or so I hated and it and didn’t understand why we had to read it. Then all of a sudden everything started to come together and I was absolutely blown away by the resolution. Sydney Carton for life. Not sure if you’re a fan of the Machine of Death anthology but I wrote a flash fan fic about him. The premise of that anthology is there’s a MOD that can tell you how you die but it likes to be tricky in its answers. Here’s mine:

    FOR LOVE – Jen T.
    When his name was called, Sydney Carton stumbled forward and submitted his finger to the Machine’s prick. He hoped the presence of alcohol wouldn’t interfere with his prediction, reeking of whiskey as he did. The Machine buzzed and deposited a slip into his hand.
    For Love, he read aloud. Mr. Carton brightened, and sobered immediately.

    • jackiemania

      I haven’t heard of the Machine of Death but I’ll look into it. Your piece is striking!

      P.S. Your perfumes look so lovely and I adore what you’re doing with the lockets, etc. I plan to order soon 🙂

      • sweetteaapothecary

        Aww thanks for the compliment. Convo me your address and I’ll send you some samples if you’d like. Definitely check out Machine of Death…I wouldn’t say it’s the best writing in the world but all of the stories are thought provoking and not what you would expect.

  5. lostgenerationreader

    Great choice! I read David Copperfield a year and a half ago for my Dickens class. Isn’t is marvelous getting an entire semester for Dickens? Our class had a good laugh over some of the names and always enjoyed Dickens’ witty moments, of which there are many. Going into the class I didn’t know if I would like Dickens, but coming out I confirmed that it was one of the best decisions of my academic career.

    • jackiemania

      Yes, a whole semester of Dickens is so wonderful. I wish I could do it again about 10 times 🙂 I’m also really covetous of the students that spend two semesters with Shakespeare. I’m in a teacher prep post-bac program right now, but I look at the English Graduate offerings every single semester like some people look at fancy cars and diamonds. 🙂

      • lostgenerationreader

        Haha, I don’t blame you! My school used to have two semesters for Shakespeare – one comedy, one tragedy – but they changed it and put everything into one semester. I still feel like we got a lot accomplished, but by the time we finished I wanted another semester.

        I don’t blame you for looking at the Graduate offerings. I would do the same thing in your position.

  6. Karen K.

    I wasn’t an English major in college, one of my greatest regrets (though I’d have had to suffer through a semester of Chaucer, bleah). Anyhow, junior year I needed to fulfill an lit class, and it was either Dickens or Tolstoy. I’d never Dickens and I added up the page numbers — four novels which totaled more than 3000 pages. So I chose Tolstoy, which was a mere 1300 pages for War and Peace. I can hardly remember War and Peace but I ended up a huge Dickens fan. I’ve always regretted not taking that Dickens class but sometimes I’m glad I didn’t — I got to discover his work at my own pace. If I’d taken the class I might have ended up hating him.

    And Bleak House is my favorite Dickens, but I ADORED Betsy Trotwood. She and Inspector Bucket are my two favorite Dickens characters.

  7. Allie Danielson (@alliedanielson)

    I just read this one back in February and was blown away by it. I loved David and wanted to hug him close against that evil witch and her brother. And Betsy! What a fabulous character! She made me smile whenever I saw her name on the page.

    Glad to “meet” you through the club!

    • jackiemania

      Thanks Allie! I was particularly thrilled to see your blog because I’ve gone back to school to get certified to teach. I have a BA in English Literature and am doing a post-bac to get in the education courses and the courses my state requires. I work full time so it’s a slow process, but I’m really enjoying it.

  8. Pingback: The Classics Club: October Meme Question #3 « jackiemania
  9. Pingback: A Little About Me… | Life During Wartime Challenge

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