John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site,, at, and now at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bringing Dickens into focus

One of the problems with Charles Dickens is that there is so much stuff. All those novels. The compelling biographical details. The Victorian background. Where to start?

Happily, Brian Murray, a professor in the writing department at Loyola College, has written a short, readable introduction, the Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dickens (Continuum, 184 pages, $19.95, due out on July 1). Just the thing for the reader in the foothills of this mountain of prose.

The ethics of disclosure compel me to state that Professor Murray engaged me to go over the proofs of the book. Should you discover any errors in it, you should feel free to blame the copy editor.

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