A Christmas Carol

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Thursday, December 25, 2008
swing set

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Festive Yule! If you observe it and it's around now, I wish you the very happiest of celebrations. If you do not, I wish you the very happiest of thursdays!

Thanks to the unusual (for portland) amount of snow, my whole week has been spent mostly indoors, reading and eating and whatnot. (Whatnot family: couch potato.) Since this is how I planned to spend Christmas Day, I decided I needed to do something to differentiate this day from all the rest. Solution: read A Christmas Carol. I'd never read it! I know, I know! It's a holiday classic. I'm familiar with the story, have seen countless ads, movie versions, comedy sketches, jokes, bah humbug, etc, but I'd never read it myself.

I remembered that I have a nice hand-sized copy, picked up at a used book sale a while back, so I went digging through my shelves and found it -- a lovely British edition (printed at the Aldine Press, Letchworth, Herts) that was first published in 1905. (mine was the 1960 printing.) It has wonderful illustrations that remind me of the style of drawing I love so much in the Oz books. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book! (Maybe I should note here that I had a falling out with Dickens somewhere in college. I can't remember why, but he was on my shit list for a long time for reasons that undoubtedly had very little to do with him and everything to do with whoever I was fighting with about it. I'm well over it, but have yet to have any kind of Dickens Emergency so it really hasn't come up.)

The story of A Christmas Carol reminded me a little of Nightmare Before Christmas, even though, of course, Dickens was first. Well, not the story so much as the fact that it's got your spooky element and your redemption element and your holiday element. It's got ghosts! It's got feasts! It's got guys who cheat a blind-man's-bluff for lascivious purposes! It's creepy (Marley's jaw in his lap?!), it's funny, it's sentimental but not as cloying as a million Tiny Tims would have us think; it's a reminder that living in the world of people is not always easy, but it's better than the alternative. Live while you're alive! ETCETERA! Plus, Dickens never met an alliteration he didn't like, he punctuates like a madman, anthropomorphizes everything in sight, and is really very funny as I've mentioned already. (he loves the exclamation point! a lot!) He also loves food. Or his readers loved descriptions of food and he happily obliged. This is from a section in "The Second of the Three Spirits" describing some shops on the way (via ghost transit) to Bob Cratchit's house. Keep in mind that this is just a small selection, and after he finished with this, he went on to describe the Grocer's and the Baker's. (caveat lector: I think I gained 15 pounds just reading it.)

"For, the people who were shovelling away on the house-tops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball--better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest--laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruitierers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars; and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner."

And now, to prove that I'm not entirely unaware of the ridiculous excesses of this season, here is a photo of an insanely creepy/wrong yet somehow charming to me glass monkey ornament.

snowball monkey
3 comments on "A Christmas Carol"
  1. So I did end up having nightmares last night and I am blaming the monkey!

  2. He looks like a simian cousin to that squirrely gargoyle you (use to?) have. Does he cause nightmares? If so, I'd like to have a word with him as I had one the other night in which Marilyn Manson and a gang of dancing demons were after me.

  3. Hey now! No blaming innocent creepy snowball monkey for your dream life. I'm sure the snowball is made of snow or coconut, and not the mystical power of dream direction.

    I don't think he's related to the gargoyle, but maybe he is... it would explain a lot.


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