I have an ongoing love for Charles Dickens, but my devotion sometimes hits these especially high peaks, and I’ve been on one of them for the past couple of weeks. I finished reading A Tale of Two Cities last weekend (see my last post for an earlier observation), and I read A Christmas Carol yesterday and today. (Of course, this wasn’t my first time through either book.) I can’t wait to lead a discussion of Carol at the Liberty University Bookstore on December 2. In the meantime, I’ve engaged in two particularly nerdy expressions of my love for Charles. Please enjoy.
1. The story of Jerricho Cotchery. I’ll try to make the frame narrative short: I’m eating out with two of my work colleagues, and there’s a Thursday night football game on TV. One of us mentions McSweeney’s delightful piece called “NFL Players Whose Names Sound Vaguely Dickensian.” Later I look up at the game and notice Jerricho Cotchery, who catches my eye because he’s a former Steeler (current Panther). I realize that if Jerricho Cotchery were in a Dickens novel, he would definitely be a Methodist minister. He would have a lean and starved appearance, and his ears would stick out from his head at exaggerated angles. When he preached, his voice would take on a ranting cadence. Then my co-worker/friend Kristen and I rapidly concoct a plot in which Dickens attempts, unusually for him, to sympathize with a Methodist minister. I wish I’d written down some notes from this impromptu creative session, but I do remember that Jerricho Cotchery is in love with a happy, useful, and modest young parishioner named Evangeline, and that in the past he did some undefined injustice to Oliver Twist, for which he now feels horribly remorseful. I hope to return to this story at some point, so if you have any good ideas for Jerricho, let me know in the comments.
2. The Sydney Carton playlist. I’m really obsessed with A Tale of Two Cities right now. I went so far as to make a Spotify playlist for Sydney Carton, and it’s a far, far better playlist than I have ever made. (Actually, it’s my first Spotify playlist.) You should be able to find it by searching “Sydney Carton.” If you find a 10-song playlist by Tess Stockslager, you’ve got it. Here’s your guide to the songs: The first four are anthems for a wasted/purposeless life, with a particular emphasis on songs about drinking, because–let’s face it, friends–Sydney is an alcoholic. The next three songs are about unrequited love and/or heartbreak; I think it’s pretty clear why those are on there. (As Lucie says at one point, “He has a heart he very, very seldom reveals, and . . . there are deep wounds in it. . . . I have seen it bleeding.”) The next two are about people deciding they don’t want to waste their lives anymore; this corresponds to that point in ATOTC when Sydney starts hanging out with the Darnays in the evening instead of with his stupid boss/”friend”/enabler Stryver. And the last song is about what Sydney wants to do, and finally succeeds in doing, for Lucie and her family.
So, put on the playlist, and get ready to dance, then cry, then dance again, then cry again. Or, put on the playlist and read A Tale of Two Cities. And while you’re at it, don’t forget about Jerricho Cotchery.
I just realized this morning that I’ve been spelling Sydney Carton’s first name wrong. And I call myself a Dickens fan-scholar.
I just changed all the “Sidneys” to “Sydneys,” and I fixed the spelling on my playlist title too.
Jerricho Cotchery’s story now has a villain: Bishop Sankey. I’m also thinking about introducing a fellow minister named Elisha Manning, who is tormented by jealousy of his older brother, whom he both loves and hates.