For those of you who don’t know, we deal in many genres of antiquarian materials. However, one of our specialities – and even our shop’s name – come from a wildly famous author who we happen to adore… Mr. Charles Dickens. As the author is very often associated with the holiday season, we thought now might be a good time for a little Q&A with our President, Vic Zoschak Jr., on his love of Dickens and the beginnings of Tavistock Books. Enjoy!
Q: Vic, could you take our recent followers on a mini journey as to our shop name? I remember getting the question of whether or not your last name was Tavistock!
Yes, over the years, I’ve often been referred to as “Mr Tavistock”, but the name actually, rather than being my surname, has a [small] Dickens connection… back in the late 80s, as I contemplated opening my own business, I cast about for a name that would reflect my firm’s interest in Dickens, but didn’t want to be too overt in that regard.. you know, nothing like “The Old Curiosity Book Shop”, or anything like that. So, long story short, I settled on Tavistock, the name of Dickens house in the 1850s, which was situated on Tavistock Square.
Q: So why Dickens? He is obviously a world-famous writer of course, but what about his writing spoke to you, and what made you want to name your store after his house?
Well, back in the mid-to-late 80s, while living in Sacramento, I was in a reading group that read, as one of our books, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. While I personally don’t consider that his best novel, what that reading did do was spark an interest in the author himself. And in pursuit of knowing more about the man, I [luckily] happened across what I consider to be the best biography of Dickens, Edgar Johnson’s Tragedy And Triumph. On reading that biography, I found Dickens to be a fascinating individual, a genius, which precipitated my dive into that gentle madness known as book collecting. I collected Dickens from the mid-80s until I opened my shop in July 1997, at which point I used my personal collection to stock the Dickens’ Corner here at 1503 Webster Street.
Q: What is your favorite of the Dickens novels and why? Favorite character in any of them?
Favorite novel is Hard Times. Many of Dickens’ novels required “32 pages of letterpress” every month, and so often, like in Pickwick Papers, there are literary diversions therein to fill up space…. I don’t see that in Hard Times. It’s spare, it’s lean, it’s all about the facts.
As to characters, like many, I’m partial to Mr. Micawber, the lovable impecunious fellow from David Copperfield.
Q: Is it true that you refuse to watch Dickens-related cinema? Interesting choice! What are your thoughts behind that decision?
True. Dickens’ words call up a mental image of each & every character he’s created. I found that when I watched a film interpretation, my mental image of a given character, e.g., Nicholas Nickleby, engendered by Dickens’ prose was replaced by the individual cast by whatever director was filming whatever version of Dickens’ works. In comparison, I found I preferred Dickens’ version. FWIW, he would only allow images approved by him, and as such, they are truly Dickensian.
Q: And last but not least… who was your favorite ghost in A Christmas Carol and why?
Ah, tough question Ms P!! I think I’ll go with the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come”. With these visions, Scrooge realizes his future can change. That’s powerful stuff, knowing one can change one’s future.
And you know what, Ms P – it’s been a few years since I’ve read this popular novella. I think I’ll revisit it this season… it’s time.
~ Happy Holidays ~