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This book captures the chameleon Dickens as a product of his era before he became its creator. Publishers Weekly 20110606 Douglas-Fairhurst's acute and incisive analysis of the contemporary reception of Dickens's journalism and then his first serialized fiction reveals how Dickens's keen observations and storytelling talent allowed him to rise above his station, as he forged his experiences into fiction...A perceptive and speculative biography. -- Lonnie Weatherby Library Journal 20110801 A convincing portrait of budding genius. -- Bryce Christensen Booklist 20111001 Robert Douglas-Fairhurst sets out to counter what he sees as the literary man-of-destiny version of Dickens, to recover the uncertainty, muddle and loose ends...Douglas-Fairhurst covers much ground, but one of his central ideas is Dickens's pervasive sense of what might have been. He sees it in the false trails and shadow plots (take Great Expectations, where Pip imagines himself in one story though is really in another), in his doublings among characters and in his jostling possibilities and competing outcomes (for instance in A Christmas Carol). Becoming Dickens is an ingenious, playful and often brilliant analysis as much as it is a narrative. The Economist 20111001 The great tide of Dickensiana, to celebrate the bicentenary of the author's birth in February 2012, has already begun to appear in the shops. While much of the attention will be focused on Claire Tomalin's Charles Dickens: A Life, my own favorite is Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist. -- D. J. Taylor The Independent 20110925 [A] subtle and searching book...Dickens is immortal and inexhaustible, and there will be more books in the lead-up to the 200th anniversary of his birth next year. If any of them outshine [this one] we shall be luckier than mere mortals deserve. -- John Carey Sunday Times 20111002 Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens ponders the question of how this phenomenal man happened. He identifies a series of self-defining moments in the process...Douglas-Fairhurst has all of Dickens, it seems, at his fingertips and his ear is cocked for every significant echo...What is extraordinarily fresh in Becoming Dickens is Douglas-Fairhurst's ability to support [his] arguments by sensitive explication de texte...Robert Douglas-Fairhurst reads Dickens the author with brilliant acuity. If [this book is a] harbinger of what is to come in the bicentennial year, 2012 will be a memorial fully worthy of the great Boz. -- John Sutherland Literary Review 20111001 [A] revealing and groundbreaking study, which succeeds by focusing, narrowly, on the early years in Dickens's career as a writer in the 1830s. -- Michiko Kakutani New York Times 20111025 Original and elegant...Douglas-Fairhurst, who has every line ever written by Dickens at his fingertips, inhabits them; he shows us the internal process of the writing, revealing the hidden jokes, the coded messages, the ways in which "the most central and eccentric literary figure of the age" wove his other selves into his texts. -- Frances Wilson Daily Telegraph 20111022 "Why did Dickens spend his entire life writing stories?" [Virginia] Woolf wondered. "What was his conception?"...Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens is the freshest and most insightful book I have read on this great theme since my first schoolboy reading of [Humphry] House['s The Dickens World]...It is hard to imagine a better book on Dickens than Douglas-Fairhurst's appearing in the coming months. I shall treasure it...Harvard University Press has produced, for Douglas-Fairhurst, a fine volume in the best tradition of American bookmaking: nice paper, elegant dust wrapper and binding, a volume to keep on your shelf forever. -- A.N. Wilson New Statesman 20111010 [A] perceptive and original study. -- Jenny Uglow The Guardian 20111007 We learn why Dickens wrote the way he did and why it resonated so much with readers of the
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is Fellow and Tutor in English, Magdalen College, Oxford.