TOBY LITT: DICKENS IS WEIRD ON EVERY LEVEL
Toby Litt, head shining under the spotlights, sets the atmosphere for his ghost story reading by asking us to imagine the lights are off; and rouses a roar of laughter. But in defence, he argues that Dickens negated Christian values in favour of offering consolation, combining Christian martyrdom & Christmas pudding – Dickens wrote ghost stories so he could blaspheme. The message of A Christmas Carol is that you can sin for two thirds of life but it’s okay to have a change of heart; he wanted to say that it’s important that these ragged children get their share in life, that we need to deal with this now in this world.
Dickens’ core social mission was to change things through writing prose – I don’t think he would have that mission in prose today, I don’t think he would feel he was doing enough good in prose fiction. TL
While Poe is more inadvertently funny and Gogol more singlehandedly grotesque, Dickens can’t resist the gag halfway through the sentence. He wanted to entertain at every point – that was a mania. His most successful ghost story in fact is Great Expectations – this is where you flesh meets spirit, dead meets the undead. Miss Havisham is a Deleuzian ghost; she wants an inhuman relationship with time – and that’s much more creepy than a dripping wet woman.