a conversation with MIKE J. QUINN OF FRIENDS OF DICKENS, NY CHAPTER
as part of the exhibition:
DICKENS, A CELEBRATION IN PICTURES
ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE CHILDREN’S BOOK ILLUSTRATORS GROUP
August 25 – October 31, 2012
Yonkers Riverfront Library
One Larkin Center, Yonkers NY 10701
DAY OF DICKENS events:
September 13 and October 13
Including performance readings by Friends of Dickens
Mike J. Quinn, actor, educator, writer and retired parole officer living in Riverdale, NY, Mike is the founder and former executive director of The Friends of Dickens New York chapter. Along with his colleagues from the Friends of Dickens, Mr. Quinn frequently presents stated dramatic readings of the famed author’s works for libraries and service organizations.
DM. Tell me about Friends Of Dickens, what you do, who your members are and how you promote Dickens' literature.
MJQ. We are more than a book discussion group. We are Dickensians, members of local branch no. 197 of the Worldwide Dickens Fellowship, founded more than one hundred years ago in London, England. We share with our members and friends our love for the words and works of Charles Dickens, the Inimitable Boz. Our members mostly hail from the metro New York region but some live as far away as Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and California. We promote Dickens by our website, www.thefriendsofdickens.org, by word of mouth and business cards, by our newsletter, Our Monthly Letter, and by free public readings from the works of Dickens in libraries and service organizations.
DM. Can anyone join?
MJQ. We are open to all people and no specialized knowledge is required.
DM. What is it about Dickens that inspires you to champion his writing?
MJQ. Dickens writes from the heart and his passion for justice, charity and his love for humanity, resounds in all his writing.
DM. Dickens wrote about all strata of society, from the very wealthy to the very poor. Did his readers identify with the characters in their same social status or did it cause controversy?
MJQ. In the 1800s there were elements in British society that condemned Dickens for his vivid descriptions of social institutions and unjust economic conditions as breeding grounds for crime and social unrest. However, more progressive elements applauded his efforts. Dickens did, in his own way, strike a powerful blow for humanity.
DM. Fred Kaplan wrote in his biography of Dickens that Dickens visited social institutions to get a first hand look at the characters, both people and settings that would populate his novels. Do you think these experiences make his characters more real and appealing to readers in his day and now?
MJQ. I'd answer that by pointing to his novel Bleak House. In preparing for it and in writing it Dickens regularly accompanied policemen on their rounds; he visited workhouses, orphanages, slums and jails. He accumulated and published information poverty rates, disease rates and such.
DM. Few writers achieve fame outside their native country. Dickens was popular here in America during his lifetime. Why?
MJQ. Dickens loved America for its republican form of government and its attempts to forge a democracy. He was disappointed in many things he saw here but he also saw hope for the future. Americans loved to read his books and flocked to his readings in record numbers on his 1867-68 reading tour.
DM. Words and phrases from Dickens' work have found their way into the English language. What are they and how are they used?
MJQ. • Scrooge, a miser, taskmaster and reformed misanthrope • Fagin - a thief and trainer of youngsters as pickpockets • Pickwickian - a retired gentleman in search of adventures and learning • Micawber - an inveterate optimist unable to balance his budget but loyal, loving and courageous.
DM. What is your favorite book and why?
MJQ. Generally I say that whatever Dickens book I happen to be reading at the moment is my favorite. Beyond that I say Bleak House is my favorite for in it I believe Dickens created his most lasting master work. I believe its cast of characters is the greatest Dickens ever achieved and its dual narrative broke new ground for the 19th century novel.
DM. Who is your favorite character?
MJQ. Hard to say. Esther Summerson (Bleak House), Pip (Great Expectations).
DM. What did you discover about Dickens that you didn't know before you became involved with Friends of Dickens?
MJQ. I discovered that Dickens, the human being, was a complex person beset with many fears, foibles and contradictions. I discovered a man passionate about living. I discovered someone always learning and trying to do his best. Ultimately he may have failed in his quest but if he did fail it was a magnificent failure.
DM. Tell my why it is important to read Dickens and/or what do you want people to know about Dickens' work.
MJQ. I want people to know that Dickens, like Shakespeare and all great writers, contributes a vision to us. His vision is based in reality, filled with humor and pathos, simple yet profound. His analysis of human nature may seem simplified at times but taken as a whole his vision is true.
For further information and a schedule and visit
www.cbig-nycExhibits.blogspot.com for more info on cbig exhibits and events
the library’s Facebook page the Yonkers Public Library Riverfront Branch http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Yonkers-Public-Library/73400644755
or call the library at 914-337-1500
This exhibition programming is underwritten by the Yonkers Public Library Foundation.
ages: children - adults Free and open the public.
ages: children - adults Free and open the public.