Oh I had such grand plans for the reading of this book this year. I was going to read it aloud to my 10 year old son- we did start it together, and we got through about half of it aloud, which I think given the multiple demands clamouring for a modern 10 year old's attention is pretty good. I was going to blog Stave by Stave posts. Well, that didn't happen either, what with the multiple demands on a modern blogger's attention. But still I got there in the end. After Christmas it must be said. But I got there. Sadly, not quite in time to blog for the read-a-long at Sheery's Place. I've never done a blog read-a-long before and am not sure how much of a transgression this is. Hopefully not too much.
I can't believe that I had never read a full Dickens before! Shhhhh. Although it seems I'm not alone in my Dickens deficit- Oprah hasn't read Dickens yet either, and she too is taking steps to remedy that. So what if I read possibly his shortest complete story, that can barely matter. I've still read Dickens. And a complete one -not just half of Bleak House (twice).
I loved the famous story of course. What I found most surprising was the level of humour within the book. The opening comments about door nails, and the relative deadness of ironmongery is rather funny, and serves to put the modern reader slightly off-balance I suspect. We have vague notions of Dickens being somewhat akin to drudgery, and we don't expect to be glancing sideways with surprise and sniggering within the first few paragraphs.
I think my favourite part is when Marley's ghost visits Scrooge. Scrooge tries to account for this strange apparition, and why he can not trust his senses:
"Because," said Scrooge," a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
There's more of gravy than of grave about you! That's gold.
I love Dickens's vocabulary and his turn of phrase. Who can not rejoice in Dickens's wondrous use of words? How often do we get to read books that describe a nose not merely as large but as a pendulous excrescence? Or children's books that talk of disgorging cesspools? Or the apoplectic opulence of a basket of chestnuts? These gems are studded throughout the book and immeasurably add to the fun of reading.
I feel that I gained such a deeper understanding of the story by reading it than just merely watching a movie adaptation - no great surprises there of course. For instance, the form of the three ghosts makes an intrinsic sense to me now, that it never has before. The Ghost of Christmas Past is essentially a torch illuminating Ebeneezer's sad childhood story. The Ghost of Christmas Present is larger than life, jolly and full of joie de vie- perhaps as we all should be. Whilst the The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the Grim Reaper, as that is what awaits us all, and perhaps Scrooge sooner than others.
Even before I was finished reading I was making plans to try and re-read A Christmas Carol. I'm sure it's a book that would reward re-reading handsomely, both with mere reading pleasure, and also with a heightened understanding of the book, and of the times. It is interesting and moving to read that Dickens was inspired to write A Christmas Carol in part as a response to the dreadful situation with child labour in England at the time. Dickens had toured tin mines in Cornwall in early 1943, and it was whilst in Manchester a few months later to address a charity serving the poor that he developed the story idea. Wiki also gives us the historical background that most of our strongest Christmas traditions began about that time- Christmas trees, cards and carol singing.
A Christmas Carol remains such a culturally important tale, and is still culturally relevant. This week, on our Australian Boxing Day (December 26th) we watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special for 2010- which naturally enough was called A Christmas Carol.
It was quite astonishing. We still have The Ghost of Christmas Past, as the good Doctor travels back and forth through time changing history, and taming the fish in the sky to stop a spaceship crashing (it is Doctor Who after all). I hadn't seen any of the modern Doctor Who episodes but this was an enjoyable introduction, and I just might start watching them again. And it was great to see Dickens reinterpreted for the modern age.
Happily this post qualifies me to enter The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge I believe (again a bit late, but this time within the set timeframe). I hope to squeeze in a few more Christmas reading posts- I've really enjoyed it this year, and it doesn't seem to matter too much that Christmas is somewhat technically over.