decorated initial 'I'n Steve Kluger's Last Days of Summer, Charlie Banks, the star third baseman for the pre-war New York Giants baseball team, gives Joseph Margolis, the then-twelve-year-old narrator, sage counsel on life and literature, since, as he tells him, "me being your hero and all, it's only fair if I give you one piece of advice." That advice involves the "writer Chas. Dickens," whom the baseball player admires for two reasons — first of all, he says what he means and second, he creates a protagonist with bravery and self-control. "This Dickens is really something, you know? The reason is because if you ever tried reading the truckload of crap that they like to pass off as books (meaning Jane Air and Ivenhoe and so forth)" you know why the world is such a mess. "The real problem," Charlie assures him, "is that nobody knows how to say what is on their mind any more. It's like trying to get a turnip out of a stone. That's how come when I was your age David Copperfield was my idle. 'Chapter One — I am born.' A man can relate to that kind of thing" (63-64).

The second reason I rooted for Copperfield was because of what kind of ringer he had to go through before he got what he got. It looked like every time you turned around he was always getting thrown out of somewheres or having the shit knocked out of him or again or taking crap from losers like Miss Murdstone who he really should have pulled her tongue out to get her off his back. But you know what he did? Nothing. He kept his mouth shut, all the time kinowing that what he was really doing was keeping score so that when the time was right he could turn around and boot them all into next week. He had them fooled too. Like:

Miss Murdstone looked at me and said, "Generally speaking I don't like boys. How d'ye do, boy?" Under these encouraging circumstances I replied that I was very well.

Now doesn't that make you wonder how he could of held it in like that without sticking a fork in her eye? [64]

Charlie's summary of the plot of Dickens's novel seems fairly accurate, but what do you make of his interpretation of David Copperfield's character and actions? He makes David seem particularly cunning, more like Thackeray's Becky Sharp than one of Dickens's orphaned heroes. Has Charlie picked up an undercurrent in the novel, whether intended by Dickens or not, or does his reading just indicate how twentieth-century readers had different expectations for main characters? How is does Charlie's interpretation of David resemble similar twentieth-century readings of Dickens's characters by Peter Carey's Jack Maggs?


Kluger, Steve. Last Days of Summer: A Novel. New York: Avon, 1998.

Last Modified 14 June 2004