So, I’m reading A Tale of Two Cities, one of Charles Dickens’ better known books.
I am increasingly of the opinion that he is the greatest writer of all time. I admit that he is at times overly melodramatic and that his plots contain a little too much coincidence for some, but I stand by my assertions. No writer matches Dickens.
Ok, maybe that Shakespeare fellow, but that’s it. I posted something in this vein over on Google Plus, and was asked, by Ehtisham Hussain, one of many great writery people I met through social media, with whether Orwell and Twain might not be up to the task. My answer was no. Each of those have two well-known books to their name (maybe three) but Dickens was really prolific and his output is unbelievable. I think Tolstoy may be the only match for his talents.
Here is an example, from A Tale of Two Cities, where he is describing the state of the common people in pre-revolutionary France.
Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys…
Or this, describing the mood in a wine shop in France, and thus the underlying anger in France in general.
Monsieur Defarge sold a very thin wine at the best of times, but it would seem to have been unusually thin wine that he sold at this time. A sour wine, moreover, or a souring, for its influence on the mood of those who drank it was to make them gloomy. No vivacious Bacchanalian flame leaped out of the pressed grape of Monsieur Defarge; but, a snouldering fire that burnt in the dark, lay hidden in the dregs of it.
The beginning fo the book is also one of the more famous in literature. So well-known is it, in fact, that I only need supply you with the first line, and I am sure the rest will play itself in your mind.
“It was the best of times…”