Thoughts About A Sketchbook

In 1836, Charles Dickens published his Illustrative of every-day life and every-day people, ‘Sketches by Boz’. Since first reading this work as a schoolboy many years ago, I have long been drawn to the romantic notion of trying my hand at something similar. The brilliance of Dickens to skilfully couple his humanity and concern, with his natural gift for storytelling remains simply astonishing. Thus, the idea of producing my own select pieces about the people, places and times that, for better or worse, shape the world we all share, was always going to be a natural evolution in my writing career.

Frontispiece from the First Edition (Second Series) 1836. Publisher: John Macrone. Private Collection

Of course, my work as an author naturally gives me a platform to comment and pontificate upon those things I feel passionate about; be they the corruption and abuses of career politicians and the legal industry, the hypocrisies and evils of organised religion, or the insipid exploitation and greed by the great retail machine. But as a mere storyteller, such commentary and opinion must always sit within a wider narrative, and this occasionally leads to a natural dilution of what it is I want to say. After all, my readers have the right to be entertained; not simply subjected to a multi-thousand-word diatribe.

Nonetheless, and over recent months, I have steadily begun to feel that there is an outlet more suited to such subject-specific commentaries – the literary sketch. Naturally short in nature, these sketches are more than adequate to handle a single subject and reveal its flaws and failings without the need for expanded characterisation and plot development. 

But how best to put them before my audience?

My original intention was to issue them as a series of blogs on this site (and it’s certainly possible that one or two may yet find their way on here for general amusement), but in the main, my plan is to publish them as an annual collection – simply titled The Sketchbook of 20202021 etc.

Covering many diverse and potentially controversial subjects, ultimately, I hope these literary sketches will prove interesting, if not always popular…

MB