I am speaking of Charles Dickens. In the past year I would say that I have read more Charles Dickens than any other author. Now, that may not be saying a lot since I read so many different writers, but compared with the aversion I felt to the man’s works starting in junior high school, I would say it is quite a thing to admit. And now when I visit the bookstore, I am just as likely to peruse “The Pickwick Papers” or “David Copperfield” as I am to check out the new releases and the bestsellers.
And here is the basis for the crush: the man had a way with words. His style is one which is both challenging and endearing. Believe me, it is not something you can take on an airplane and expect to breeze through over a few hours; you definitely have to work at it. The language is cryptic and challenging, but if you work through it you feel as if you are being let into the man’s sense of humor. He writes as if he is telling a story to his friends, a story that he personally observed while sitting in a chair in the corner, with the actors unaware.
So you can understand my concern as I began his most recent work (I say it that way because it was his last book, thus it is by nature his “most recent.”) “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Heard of it? You probably have, simply because of its novelty– it wasn’t finished; Dickens died before it was completed. This was back in a time when books were serialized, with chapters coming out periodically. So the book was being written virtually at the same time as the public was reading it. Thus, when we say the book wasn’t finished, it truly was not finished. It wasn’t sitting on an editor’s desk when the man died; the last words in the book are the last words written.
Now it would be forgivable for any other book to end in the middle with the author’s death. Sure, we may never know if the guillotine came down on Sidney Carton’s head or whether Rhett and Scarlet got together at the end of the war, and we would be ok with that. We wouldn’t be happy, but we could make up our own endings and be somewhat satisfied. But this book was different, nee, it was an abomination. Who dares to write a mystery and then die without letting us in as to whodunit? Imagine watching “How I Met Your Mother” and never finding out who the mother was!
Well, scholars and literati have pondered the final work of Mr. Dickens to excess and have come to conclusions that many of the reading public have accepted as logical. I won’t bore you with the particulars. But the discussion above if important for one other thing: do you have any unfinished business?
Look, I am not one to read the last page of a book first to see how it ends, just in case I never get there, but to have written a book and not figured out how it was to end, not sketched it in notes or outlined it on a napkin, sounds unforgivable.
So it made me consider my own affairs. Do I have any unfinished business? I could try to plug this into some discussion about the importance of having an estate plan or making sure a buy-sell agreement is in place, because you never know when the end might come and you need to set the gears in place to start moving should an unfortunate demise occur. But I am not going to do that. That is too… serious.
Instead, I am just going to take the next few days to think about my unfinished business. I doubt there will be any races to locate my private articles and manuscripts (of which I have none, by the way), but I want to make sure that when I go, I don’t look back and say, “I wish I had done that…”
I guess that means live life the fullest, huh? But what does that mean? Well, it means, to me, doing things which are entertaining, rewarding, enlightening, and inspiring. I have my own bag of tricks so I won’t bore you with those. Just think about it. Nothing to serious here this week, just something I was thinking about as I was reading. Of course, when my mind wanders like that I end up missing entire passages and have to re-read them. But I don’t mind.