"No One Is A Stranger"

November 22, 2021

By Trude Hoffacker 


Each year participants at the Dickens Universe look forward to greeting old friends and welcoming new ones. Kirk Davis was among the newcomers who became an active participant in the 2021 Universe, and I looked forward to interviewing him.

Trude Hoffacker: “How did you hear about the Universe?"

Kirk Davis: “I regularly get notices about Shakespeare Santa Cruz in a circular from the Humanities Department, but this year when I got the newsletter it was The Christmas Carol that caught my eye first. I read The Carol every year and admire it for its structure as well as for its message, so of course I wanted to find what this ‘Dickens Universe’ was all about. I checked out the  fabulous schedule and was impressed by its range and depth. The list of films also attracted me.”

TH: “Has Dickens himself been a favorite of yours.”

KD: “No. I have a confession to make. I am not a reader. I am a retired software engineer with an interest in Shakespeare and film — especially film. In fact, I have taken enough courses in film at UCLA to qualify for a MFA in film. So, in part, I have come to Dickens through film. Aside from my yearly reading of The Christmas Carol, my single memorable contact with Dickens came in 1981 when a friend and I attended the New York film festival and took time to attend the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Nicolas Nickleby — all 8 hours. Riveting.”

TH: “You say you are not a reader, but I noticed you greeted everyone in the Chat during the first virtual session of the Pickwick Club’s study of Bleak House."

KD: Yes. I find I enjoy the human connection of reading with other people. My favorite parts of the Universe were the sessions that involved interaction with professors, grad students, and participants.”

TH: “What is your lasting impression of the Universe?"

KD: “FIRST AND LAST, WELCOMING. I felt comfortable speaking up and enjoyed the sense of community and collegiality. No one is a stranger.”

TH: “And now you are are looking forward to participating in the Universe next year, probably virtually, but at least one day in person on campus. How would you describe the experience of attending virtually?

KD: “The virtual Universe was an amazing achievement. After one small glitch on the first day, everything proceeded smoothly and provided for lots of interaction. Courtney and her assistants deserve great praise.”

TH: “You also seemed to enjoy participating in the auction.”

KD: “Yes. That was great fun. The interplay among the bidders set it apart from any auction I have ever observed.”

TH: “Do you have any other personal takeaway you would like to share?

KD: “The greatest personal takeaway for me is that I see the cinematic nature of Dickens’s writing. When reading Bleak House, I see scenes of the novel as through a movie camera and the characters as actors delivering dialogue.”


Kirk and I did not end our conversation here. I learned about the trajectory of his early life that led to his career as a software engineer and took him from his home state of Ohio to the film capital in California. We talked about the importance of having outside interests, no matter what one’s career and explored a few of our own outside interests together. I look forward to meeting up with Kirk again as I do with so many of the friends I have met through the Dickens Universe, a community of people with diverse interests and accomplishments, a community in which “no one is a stranger.”