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Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World Paperback – August 7, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034580323X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345803238
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,308,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A biography of Boz by a great English actor, who seeks to reverse the orthodox argument that Dickens’s obsession with theatrical drama made his books sentimental and lachrymose. . . .  Callow argues that it is Dickens’s attention to stagecraft and the power of drama that’s made folks like The Artful Dodger and Miss Havisham seem three dimensional."
    —The Daily Beast

"In this insightful biographical study, Callow, a seasoned actor and director, shows how the theatricality that caused Dickens’ legs to swell also vastly enlarged his literary art. . . . Itself as enchanting as a well-directed stage play, this narrative will delight any lover of Dickens."
    —Booklist, starred review

“[Simon Callow’s] admiration for his subject glistens on every page. . . . The author shows us the vast, adoring crowds and tallies the enormous psychic and physical costs of Dickens’ myriad performances and celebrity. Callow makes us wish we’d been in those crowds to watch this astonishing magician weave his literary spells.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

“A celebration, jubilant, vigorous, imaginative, and, as Dickens might have said, an all-round sizzler.”
     —John Carey, The Sunday Times (London)

“This is the book we have long been waiting for and only Simon Callow could have written it. . . . A marvelous book that deepens and enriches our understanding and enjoyment of Dickens.”
     —Michael Slater, author of Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing
 
“Callow . . . writes with great authority and elegant insouciance, which makes this ‘biography with a twist’ very entertaining.”
     —The Independent (London)
 
“It is one of the many virtues of this book that Callow not only admires his subject, but has got inside him.”
     —The Guardian (London)

"Of the several books published this year in honor of the bicentennial of Dickens’s birth, this by Callow is in many ways the best because it has all the gusto that a popular biography of Dickens—a man who “could do nothing by halves”—should possess. . . . The best biography for Dickens newcomers and a wonderful read for all."
     —Library Journal, starred review

About the Author

Simon Callow is an actor, director, and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral. His books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy on Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have now been published), and Love Is Where It Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent Peggy Ramsay. His most recent book, My Life in Pieces, won the Sheridan Morley Prize in 2011.
 
www.simoncallow.com

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Customer Reviews

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Very well written, I highly recommend it.
Bruce Oksol
If you buy the book I hope you enjoy it more than I did and thanks for taking the time to read my review.
William E. Liberatore
Simon Callow's "Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World" is captivating reading.
KmVictorian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By FictionFan TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Callow has written a superbly readable and affectionate account of the great man's life, viewing it from the perspective of how Dickens' love for the world of the theatre influenced his life and work. Interspersed generously with Dickens' own words, taken from his correspondence with friends, we get a real feel for his massive personality, his sense of fun, his unstoppable energy and, yes, his occasional pomposity too.

Callow doesn't shirk from telling us about the less flattering aspects of Dickens' life - his appalling treatment of his wife, for instance, and the occasional bullying of his poor publishers. But he also reminds us of the social campaigning and the generosity to family, friends and colleagues. The account is a linear one, so we find out what Dickens was involved in at the time of writing each of his novels and get a feel for the inspiration for each one.

Callow concentrates in considerable depth on Dickens the showman - the many theatrical performances he wrote for, played in and directed in his early life; and then the tremendous and punishing public readings of his own works which came to dominate so much of his later years. Here was an author who gave generously of himself to his adoring public and who thrived on the adulation he was shown in return.

I've been in love with Dickens the writer for most of my life and now having read this sparkling biography I have fallen in love with Dickens the man! If I tell you that I cried when Dickens died (not an altogether unexpected plot development) then it will give you some idea of how much of the humanity of the man Callow has managed to reveal.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Glynn Young VINE VOICE on December 5, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Literature was his wife, the theatre his mistress, and to the very end he was tempted to leave the one for the other."

So writes actor Simon Callow in a concise summary statement in his biography of Charles Dickens, "Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World." Many biographers have tackled Charles Dickens over the years, the most notable in contemporary times being Peter Ackroyd. But few if any could bring the understanding of acting and the theater that Callow brings to the subject.

And what he's done is to have written a highly readable, thoroughly enjoyable, admiring yet piercingly honest story of his subject.

Acting and the theater may well be the best lens to use in understanding the man, his novels and his life, and Callow uses it imaginatively to explain who this Charles Dickens was.

Born into a middle-class family, Dickens knew both the comforts of home and the terrors of what happens when those comforts are snatched away, as they were when his father kept falling deeper into debt, to the point where he was sentenced to debtor's prison. From an early age, the young Charles was a performer, enjoying the attention and using the attention to feed some desperate needs within himself.

As a young man, he was tempted to go into acting, and even had a scheduled audition, but he was forced to miss it because of a bad cold. Instead, he went into journalism, and then into writing sketches using the pen name of "Boz," and from his early 20s he became famous. The sketches led to serialized novels, and what Charles Dickens produced over the course of his literary life changed the face, heart and soul of literature forever.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brian J. Greene VINE VOICE on December 4, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is very carefully considered and well written, as well as thoughtful and good-humored. It didn't exactly hit my sweet spot, because what I'm most interested in about Dickens are his novels, and the connection between his life and those books, and the novels are kind of brushed over here. But Callow, per the book's title and as explained in his introduction, was most interested in the connection between Dickens and the theater - both the theater as in Dickens's involvement in the production of plays and in the theater that was Dickens's personal life - and he completely hit the mark he intended to hit. So the book didn't completely hold my interest but that's just because it's not the book on Dickens I would want to read, and not at all indicative of any flaws in the writing. It's a very good book that many Dickens enthusiasts will enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miles D. Moore TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Simon Callow's "Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World" lives up to its title. In sparkling and penetrating prose, Callow demonstrates that Dickens was an actor, in one sense or another, all his life, and that his novels are best understood as the most massive, elaborate theatrical productions ever. Himself an actor of great renown--who has played Dickens and Scrooge, among other roles--Callow is excellently qualified to analyze the theatrical aspects of Dickens' life and work.

Callow pays tribute at the beginning of the book to the great biographers of Dickens--Peter Ackroyd, Claire Tomalin, Edgar Johnson et. al.--but does not try to match them. He stays focused on his central thesis, showing how Dickens was driven to perform from his earliest boyhood, through his frequent adult forays as an amateur actor (his most popular role, in a melodrama called "The Frozen Deep," reverberated through his private life), and on to the magnificent readings from his own work that he gave toward the end of his life--and which, unfortunately, shortened his life.

Equally unfortunately, Dickens' theatrical obsession and need to create characters also informed his private life. Callow shows us--as Tomalin did before him--that Dickens ascribed personalities and motives to his family and friends that often bore little resemblance to the real people. This explains most of the trouble in Dickens' life, especially his incendiary breakup with his wife Catherine. Dickens behaved cruelly and reprehensibly throughout the episode, yet was incapable of seeing anyone except himself as an injured party--the hero of his own life.

Yet, in the end, the tree is known by its fruit, and the fruit of Dickens' labors was resplendent indeed.
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