I think I must’ve watched a filmed version of this story every year for as long as I can remember. Every year, at some point, I’ll make a mental note to get to the library and pick up a copy of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and give it a read. Well, this year I finally heeded my mental notage and, it has to be said, I am much the richer for the experience. I didn’t get to turning a single page of the book, however, thanks to a marvellous site on the intermaweb doo-hickey called Project Gutenberg which provides free text copies of public domain novels. For a workshy office slacker drone such as myself this site has provided me the opportunity to appear intent upon my work whilst catching up on all the classics I’ve been meaning to read (all the Sherlock Holmes storys, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, HG Wells The Time Machine).
So it was with A Christmas Carol. Now, I wasn’t sure what it would be like reading this, having had the story engrained in my brain from numerous sources and performances (including muppets, Scottish ducks and Bill ‘The Mullett’ Murray). I wasn’t sure whether I’d fully engage with the story or be distracted, connecting certain elements with their visual retellings. Once I reached the following paragraph, the second, and got a flavour of Dickens writing style all my fears were allayed..
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my
own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about
a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to
regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery
in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors
is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands
shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You
will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that
Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
I found myself chuckling out loud at that, it’s exactly the kind of thing that appeals to my sense of humour, little tangents and observations on the idiosycracies of the English language. From then on I believe I only stopped reading once (however irritating it is I do sometimes have to engage with others in my role and can’t get away with ignoring the boss because The Ghost Of Christmas Present just turned up) and was enthralled to the finish. It’s hard to describe what makes something timeless. Like I said at the start of the review, I watch one version or another of this story every year, and there must be a reason for it. Do we identify with Scrooge ? I don’t think it’s possible to truly identify with the man in whole as he is the embodiment of mean-spiritedness, the minor imperfections of the common man inflated to epic proportions. So although we may find minor facets of ourselves in his actions it is the pleasure of watching this man’s journey into joy.
Beyond the stock plot and characters that have been transferred into numerous media there is a new charcter in the story that adds another dimension, the author himself. As you can see from the excerpt above the man Dickens has a singular humour and his writing style is a joy to read. He also manages to shoehorn himself into the proceedings, offering opinions on events and his own writing. The only film version I’ve seen attempt to translate this (you can correct me if I’m wrong for I ahven’t yet got around to seeing every version of the story) is the Muppet one with The Great Gonzo providing onscreen narration as the author, which worked very well in my opinion.
If you haven’t read this then I highly recommend it. At all the high emotional points of the story that I’ve witnessed numerous times I found myself welling up as if I were unaware of what was to come. The handling of the Tiny Tim situation seems even more heartbreaking here than I have ever witnessed onscreen, and the Scrooge’s joyous awakening on Christmas morning had me grinning from ear to ear. So give it a go this Christmas, all you have to do is follow the links above and you can have a free copy sitting on your computer in a matter of minutes. Merry Christmas.