Charles Dickens for our time?

Reflecting today on Charles Dickens, his work, the social portraits of his time, I was wondering if we had a Dickens or a Zola for our time.

Any idea? A fiction writer who would portray the tough social times so many go through in our 21st century?

He/she can be a European or American writer – I’m thinking more of our Western world here.

Please share any thought, with some examples of titles if necessary. Thanks!

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5 thoughts on “Charles Dickens for our time?

  1. I think many people who love Charles Dickens and consider him a master forget that he was also responsible for the commercialization of the novel. He wrote for an audience he usually surveyed too, so although now we love him as a classic, he was a hit at the time.

    For me, it would be Margaret Atwood: she deals with women, children, ecology, history and historical rewritings, relationships… everything!

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  2. While I might go crazy if I see another young author described as the new “Dickens”, I have to admit that your inclusion of Zola here has placated me (and better explained what kind of author you’re looking for).

    I can’t name one particular author, but there are a few books I’ve read recently that might fall into the same Dickens/Zola-esque category of social critique. The best would be The Barbarian Nurseries which gives a good glimpse of modern Southern California. American Rust was another excellent novel that did a pretty good job of showing the difficulties faced in many of America’s more out-of-the-way towns. Another that perhaps isn’t meant to be as serious (but nonetheless succeeds at being very relevant and thought-provoking) is Fathermucker which I just finished reading yesterday and think does a fairly accurate job of displaying a liberal middle class society and family life.

    I wouldn’t say any of these novels (and their authors) are quite as ambitious as Zola ever was… and while I would love to see a modern talent take up that challenge, I don’t think it’ll ever truly happen. I often feel that literature today focuses a little less on external society as it does on internal, more character-driven development. Interesting question, though. I think I shall try to keep a sharper eye out for more books that could fall in this category.

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    • Wow, thanks so much for your comment, this makes it blogging at its best! Thanks for the titles you share, I’m ashamed I never heard of them, except the most recent one. I really appreciate your input on why we seem to no longer have writers such as Dickens or Zola. That makes sense, and you put it in perfect words, thanks again!

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  3. Pingback: Biblibio: Literature as a social critique | Literature

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