Some years ago, I fell into a spirited argument about the greatest English-language novelist and novel. I declared for Charles Dickens and David Copperfield. Battling Dickens in the ring was Ms. George (Middlemarch) Eliot. Her corner man was Jim Finn, one of my esteemed predecessors at Commonweal. Meanwhile, promoters for Jane Austen, Henry James, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and sundry others circled around, hoping to get...
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