That’s right. Another post about Charles Dickens. This time, though, my point is not that plots are superfluous, but that the world (and America, specifically) needs another Dickens. Two Reasons.
Reason #1: Madoff. So clearly a Dickens character, except Dickens wouldn’t have chosen such a ridiculously obvious name (‘Hot dog! Madoff has made off with our money!’). Madoff is basically based on Dickens’ Mr Merdle from Little Dorrit, the richest man in London, renowned for his financial brilliance in guaranteeing awfully high returns for his investors. That’s a red flag, people. And indeed, his Ponzi scheme is discovered, financial ruin is spread across the city, and Merdle kills himself. My favorite economist notices the resemblance here, here is another reflection on what Little Dorrit has to say about our latest financial collapse, and finally, an ode to Dickens’ handling of a scumbag like Merdle. Where’s the contemporary bestseller about pyramid schemes? Maybe if everyone was reading a book like Little Dorrit in the late ’90s, none of this would have happened.
Reason #2: brown tap water in LA, which is perfectly legal but should not be. Now, in this case, a modern day Dickens could really get results. Consider the case of the London slum Jacob’s Island, the backdrop for the last scenes in Oliver Twist. Want to know why it’s an island? Because it’s surrounded by a moat filled with raw sewage! Yeah. Dickens’ account so shocked the reading public that the place was cleaned up within a couple decades (open sewers filled in, ramshackle shelters torn down, the usual). Can you imagine what a runaway bestseller on the grittiness of chemical sludge tap water could do? Maybe get the EPA to take an interest? (I just realized I’m basically talking about Erin Brockovich… Alright, why was Julia Roberts of all people not able to solve this?)