From Pickwick to Scrooge, Copperfield to Twist, how did Dickens find the perfect names for his characters? What was Dickens's favourite way of killing his characters? When is a Dickens character most likely to see a ghost? Why is Dickens's trickery only fully realised when his novels are read aloud? In thirteen essays, John Mullan explores the literary machinations of Dickens's eccentric genius, from his delight in clichés to his rendering of smells and his outrageous use of coincidences. This companion puts Dickens's audacity, originality and brilliance on full display.
... excellent ... The Artful Dickens is both an exposure of the trickster’s methods and a celebration of close reading. The book is divided into 13 essays which can be read separately, but whose impact is greater when taken together ... If Mullan put into his hat a creator of gargoyles and spinner of melodrama, he pulled out an innovator who broke all the rules. The Artful Dickens made me feel that I had been in some form of trance during my earlier reading of these novels.
Whether you think modern critical theory a triumph or a travesty—or, alternatingly, both—John Mullan, in The Artful Dickens, has something to offer ... Without academic pretense, [Mullan] offers a careful reading of Dickens’ work that will illuminate the joy fans already experience and assist those who struggle to find a way into these long, old-fashioned novels. Mullan doesn’t claim to have parsed the entire Dickens canon; indeed, this volume reads like an enthusiastic list of favorites ... One of the pleasures to be gained by this book will come after reading it, when you return to Bleak House, Great Expectations, or David Copperfield and find yourself newly able to identify techniques that Mullan did not assess ... on page after page, The Artful Dickens shows us a singular craftsman who was of his time and, simultaneously, timeless.
... splendid ... The chapter on naming is one of the book’s most fascinating ... Mullan’s book is too rich to capture in a review. Each chapter shoots off in a fresh direction and illuminates it. There is a brilliant chapter on cliché — how Dickens revels in it, inventing characters who mix clichés up ... You must, and should, read Mullan’s book. Even if you know a lot about Dickens you will find revelations in it, and if you know nothing about Dickens and want to learn what makes him great it will be the perfect appetiser.