Books: The Artist as Sob Sister

CHARLES DICKENS' BEST STORIES (669 pp.)—Edited by Morton Dauwen Zabel —Hanover House ($4.95).

A reader may pay for an author's talent and get only his company. Charles Dickens is good company, but this collection of short stories, articles, sketches and short novels displays few of his virtues and almost all of his melodramatic devices. It is chockablock with phantoms, haunts, ominous coincidences, infants lowered into tiny graves to ascend as tiny angels, would-be suicides snatched back at the dark river's edge, pregnant maidens abandoned by heartless cads. This is the Dickens who wrung out Victorian soap opera's dampest hour, and posted "cry...

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