Dickens: Greatest Animal Novelist of All Time?

Jonathan Lethem at The Believer:

I have a suggestion: Forget London. Forget, for now, the nineteenth century, forget the whole assertion that the value of the “late” or “mature,” Dickens—a construction whose first evidence is usually located by commentators here, in Dombey and Son—rests on his placement of his sentimental melodramas and grotesques in an increasingly deliberate and nuanced social portrait of his times, of his city. Forget institutions, forget reform. Please indulge me, and forget for the moment any questions of psycho-biographical excavation, of self-portraiture, despite Dombey’s being the book which preceded that great dam-bursting of the autobiographical impulse, David Copperfield (and, in fact, Dombey contains a tiny leak in that dam in the form of Mrs. Pipchin, the first character avowed by Dickens to have been drawn from a figure from his life). Forget Where’s Charles Dickens in all this fabulous contradictory stew of story and rhetoric? What does the guy want from us? What does he really think and believe? Forget it all, and then forgive what will surely seem a diminishing suggestion from me, which is that you abandon all context, ye who enter here, and read Dombey and Son as though it were a book about animals.

more here.