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Monday Miscellany

It’s been a good week for literature-relating reading.

The Top 10 Charles Dickens Books

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

Robert Gottlieb, author of Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens, explains why he thinks these are Dickens’s 10 best books:

  1. Great Expectations
  2. Our Mutual Friend
  3. David Copperfield
  4. Bleak House
  5. Little Dorrit
  6. Oliver Twist
  7. Nicholas Nickleby
  8. Dombey and Son
  9. The Pickwick Papers
  10. The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens

The Education of Virginia Woolf

At The Atlantic, Benjamin Schwarz uses the publication of volume 6 of The Essays of Virginia Woolf  as the springboard to a discussion of Virginia Woolf as discerning reader of literature: “Taken as a whole, Woolf’s essays are probably the most intense paean to reading—an activity pursued not for a purpose but for love—ever written in English.”

The multivolume compilation The Essays of Virginia Woolf has been out of print for decades, and readers have been awaiting the conclusion of this expertly edited and lavishly annotated scholarly edition of Woolf’s complete essays for nearly 25 years. At last the project is finished with this, the sixth volume, which was published to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Woolf’s death last year. This installment, which gathers the pieces she wrote from 1933 until her suicide in 1941, poignantly illuminates the effort and ideals that informed her critical writing. Woolf became a financially secure novelist in 1928 with the publication of Orlando, yet she continued to toil at her relatively unremunerative reviews. For example, by cross-referencing her letters and diaries, Stuart N. Clarke, this volume’s editor, reveals that in November 1936, Woolf began work on her lapidary, psychologically astute, tender essay on Edward Gibbon. That project demanded that she read his journals, letters, and the six drafts of his autobiography—and reread the six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the work that naturally forms the cynosure of her piece. She labored at this review through the winter and spring of 1937 (“I’ve spent all the morning, every morning, writing; every evening reading. I had to dash through Gibbon”), until its publication that May. For this staggering quantity of work, she was paid 28 pounds, equal to something like $2,500 today—a nice lump sum, but a minuscule per-hour rate.

Famous authors: Why their biggest fans love to hate them

Declaring “the more beloved a particular book becomes, the more responsibility the author has to treat their readers with respect and understanding,” the folks at hypable list authors they love to hate:

  • J. K. Rowling
  • Suzanane Collins
  • George R. R. Martin
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • John Green

On Bad Endings

On The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner blog Joan Acocella declares:

Many of the world’s best novels have bad endings. I don’t mean that they end sadly, or on a back-to-work, all-is-forgiven note (e.g. “War and Peace,” “The Red and the Black,” “A Suitable Boy”), but that the ending is actually inartistic—a betrayal of what came before. This is true not just of good novels but also of books on which the reputation of Western fiction rests.

Read why she hates the endings of these well known novels:

  • David Copperfield
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Song of the Lark
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Hollywood’s 25 Most Powerful Authors

The Hollywood Reporter offers its list of:

those living authors who have been most successful in shepherding their books from page to screen, balancing success in publishing (total output, sales, best-sellers) and in Hollywood (completed adaptations, projects in development, screenwriting and producing credits) while accounting for cultural influence. More power to them.

Yes, some of the big names—Stephenie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, George R. R. Martin—are there at the top of the list, but some of the names farther down might surprise you.