Xiaolu Guo: ‘Dickens is sentimental, clumsy and lacks poetry’ | Books | The Guardian:
The Guardian posed as series of fast questions to writer Xiaolu Guo, and her answers result in harsh hot take on the writings of Charles Dickens. You can read the answers in full here .Her views on Dickens are so uninformed that I cannot take her seriously as a literary thinker. There is nothing in the article that makes me think that she is subtle and thorough writer, let alone possessing anything like the grace and poetry she maintains Dickens lack. This has nothing to do with gender preference: Dickens is simply a superb writer , a keen observer, a wonderful social critic, an amazing, astounding creator of complex characters from all the tiers of society. Dickens is the kind of social novelist that prolix neocon and former writerly whiz-kid Tom Wolfe extols as the kind of practitioner of the art that younger writers ought to be emulating. Wolfe, of course, goes on to , in his own fiction, imitate Dickens blatantly in several of his baggy monster novels, to paraphrase Henry James, and demonstrates the difficulty in doing what Dickens did with apparent ease; keen eye, sharp, character revealing dialogue, the skill and tact to characterize the privileged and the powerless humanely and fully without a (conspicuous) set of moral/political concerns undercutting the natural seeming flow of the author's many narrative strands.
Dickens was an observer, which means he took in context, situations, conditions, and he listened as well, closely and intently no doubt, which seems a good way to make your characters complex, , believable and, to use a dread word, relevant. Of course Dickens wrote well and was capable of some the most immaculate and stirring lyric sentences written in English--does anyone doubt a 20th century maestro like William Gaddis didn't pay close attention to the Dickensian cadences as he aligned the many details we gather in Great Expectations, David Coppefield, Bleak House? As a matter of course, not uncommon for a professional, serializing writer like Dickens who wrote many novels and stories over many years, not everything he did was a home-run--neither is everything by Updike or Joyce Carol Oates for that matter. But let us end this rant by completing the metaphor and conclude that his lifetime batting average would make the other would be geniuses of the writerly sort seem farm league , forever up and coming, never arriving .