A not-so-magical search for “David Copperfield”

Parents do a lot of mundane tasks for their kids. They haul them around to various team sport outings and other extra-curricular activities. I had no interest in such things, so my parents got off easy most of the time.

Until we embarked upon a search for “David Copperfield.” (The book, not the magician. He probably would have been easier to find.)

I was a slightly above-average student in school, and was enrolled in an honors reading class. I believe I was in 5th grade at the time. “David Copperfield” was the next book on our reading list and I had to procure a copy that weekend to bring to class on Monday.

So how hard can it be to find a copy of a classic novel by Charles Dickens in a large suburban area of California? This was back in the mid-1980’s, when bricks-and-mortar bookstores were bountiful and Amazon was just a river. We set out at a leisurely pace on a Sunday afternoon, heading to the nearest mall.

We stopped in at Walden’s bookstore. Nope, sold the last copy yesterday. We went to the next bookstore and they were on back-order. We asked where the nearest bookstore was from there and headed back to the car in defeat.

It seemed every damn student in my town was reading this book, and had been smarter than I and bought it earlier.

So we went to the next bookstore down the street, and then to another mall, and by then, Dad was grumbling about the gas he was wasting. When he wasn’t complaining about the cost, he was talking about his memories of the book and other Charles Dickens novels. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the works made me know I was going to hate reading this book, if I ever got my hands on it.

The sun was setting and we still had not found a copy. The next day at school, the teacher found an extra copy that I was allowed to “borrow” for class until I finally got my hands on a copy of my own at some point that week. And guess what, I hated every word of it. In fact, it was one of the first books I faked reading just to get through the book report assignment.

To this day, I still have no interest in reading “David Copperfield” or any other work by Charles Dickens, for that matter. Sorry, Dad.

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