Interviewing Dickens

December 12, 2009

Me: The candles are lit, the proper incantations have been recited, and here I sit with one of my favorite authors, Charles Dickens.  Mr. Dickens, thank you for joining me this evening.  I hope you had a nice trip over from The Summer Lands.

Dickens: I did, thank you very much.  The last bit of the transition from ether to Los Angeles was a bit jarring, but we must take things as we find them.  I’m very pleased to be here this evening but, excuse me, Madam, I feel compelled to inquire why you are disporting yourself in undergarments for this interview.

Me: It’s not underwear, Mr. Dickens.  It’s a tank top and pajama pants.  You just said take things as you find them.

Dickens: Yes, you are quite correct, I did just say that.  My apologies.

Me: Before we get too far into this interview, I want to say you’re one of my all-time favorite authors.  I have enormous respect for you and your work.  I’ve read David Copperfield at least once a year since I was twelve.

Dickens: I’m flattered.

Me: I hope so, Mr. Dickens, because as we go on some of these questions might seem a bit intrusive.  I don’t want you to think for one minute that I’m trying to harsh your gig or disrespect you in any way.  It’s just investigative journalism, okay?

Dickens: Harsh my –  ?

Me: You produced a rather amazing body of work during your lifetime, enduring classics that have resonated with generations of readers for over 150 years.  Does that level of success surprise you?

Dickens: Why no, actually, it does not.  I reached a high level of commercial success during my mortal lifetime, you are aware.

Me: Yet your financial success was limited, isn’t that correct?

Dickens: I made an extremely comfortable living for my wife and ten children.

Me: But you were doing public readings of your work up until the year you died.  Some historians say that you worked yourself to death with these readings.

Dickens: No, not at all, not at all.  I enjoyed my Farewell Readings.

Me: And they paid quite well.  I guess they’d have to, considering that you had your wife, ten children, and your girlfriend Ellen Ternan to support.

Dickens: Er…ah…I beg your pardon?

Me: You’re sputtering like an old quill, Mr. Dickens.  Don’t you have anything to say about your dalliance with Ellen Ternan?  A younger woman like that – and an actress to boot – couldn’t have been cheap to keep, even in the Victorian Era.

Dickens: Madam, I am here to discuss my work, not my personal affairs.

Me: (snort) You said “affair”.

Dickens: Madam!  This line of questioning is most inappropriate.

Me: Okay, okay, you’re right.  Let’s talk about your work.  One question in particular that I’ve also had, Mr. Dickens, is why you were never able to write a credible female character.  All of your females are caricatures, without depth or facets.  How do you explain that?

Dickens: That’s entirely false.

Me: Is it?  Let’s take a look.  You wrote women who were morally irreproachable and completely unbelievable:  Esther Summerson and Anges Wickfield, just to name two.  Then you wrote simpering, brainless little dolls like Dora Copperfield and Little Dorrit.  Not too creative there, I have to say.  What happened?  Did you run out of names?  Anyway, then of course there are your whores:  Martha from “David Copperfield” and Nancy from “Oliver Twist”.

Dickens: Madam, is this an interview or an inquisition?

Me: Not going to answer that one, are you?

Dickens: I find it insulting and beneath my dignity.

Me: So, you’re not going to address your Madonna/Whore complex?  Your belief that all women fall into one of those two categories?

Dickens: Women do fall into one of those two categories.  They did in my time and, I suspect, they still do.  There are virtuous women and there are women of no virtue whatsoever.

Me: Wow.  Okay, then.  Moving on.  Since it’s almost Christmas, let me ask you about “A Christmas Carol”…

Dickens: I read your blog, “My Own Personal Christmas Carol”, by the way.

Me: Really?  I’m honored.  What did you think?

Dickens: I think you have been married far too many times.

Me: That seems to be the general consensus, Mr. Dickens.  Getting back to “A Christmas Carol”, have you seen any of the movie versions?

Dickens: Yes, of course.  The dead like to be entertained as much as the living, you know.

Me: So, which movie version is your particular favorite?

Dickens: The version with George C. Scott.

Me: I like the one with Mr. Magoo.

Dickens: I am at a loss for words, which, as a writer, I find very disconcerting.

Me: You know what I think is disconcerting?  The way you keep staring at my chest.  Don’t they have boobs in The Summer Land?

Dickens: I beg your pardon once more, but it was you who chose to summon me here while wearing undergarments.

Me: I told you –

Dickens: Yes, yes, it’s not undergarments.  I would like to take the opportunity to ask you a question, Mrs. –

Me: Just Debi is fine.

Dickens: (sighs)  I would like to ask you, Madam, harking back to your question about the “types” of women I created in my work:  Which category do you fall into?  Are you *ahem* the irreproachable and therefore unrealistic woman of strong morals, or the simpering child-woman, or the fallen woman?

Me: You don’t really think real women can be grouped into types like that, do you?

Dickens: Who is practicing avoidance now, I ask?

Me: Okay, fine.  I’d say I’m a cross between Betsy Trotwood – strong and independent – and Nancy, the loose woman with the heart of gold.  But in reality, I’m probably a closer match to your mistress, Ellen Ternan.

Dickens: I’m ready to leave now, Madam.

Me: But I have more questions.

Dickens: I respectfully suggest that you save them for an author with less self-esteem.  May I recommend Wilkie Collins?

Me: Mr. Collins didn’t leave a wife and children for a mistress.

Dickens: I did not leave my children.

Me: Oh, that’s right.  You took your children away from their mother.

Dickens: This interview is over.

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4 Responses to “Interviewing Dickens”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Wow!
    Very well written, Debi!

  2. janet Says:

    You are SUCH a kick in the pants! This is delightful.

  3. Mickey Mills Says:

    WOW, WOW, WOW!

    Loved the interview style! And the way you handled the old coot… Masterful!

    FIVE STARS! * * * * *

  4. Trinity R. Says:

    Very well written, wonderful “interview”! Thanks for a laugh 🙂

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