Come in! and know me better, man!

Come in! and know me better, man!During my weeklong Christmas break, amidst the festivities and family dinners and hockey and gallivanting in our nation’s capital, I somehow manage to polish off two books. The first of those, admittedly, should probably not count, since I’ve read it so many times I could doubtless recite it verbatim if I tried. (Okay, maybe not the whole thing, but definitely stretches of it.) I’m talking about my perennial Christmas favorite, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Dickens in general (although, I do intend to read A Tale of Two Cities one of these days), but I have to say that A Christmas Carol is, quite simply, one of the finest stories ever written. Every sentence, every character, every scene is letter perfect.

This, for instance, may be one of the best character descriptions in literature:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge. a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

The prose practically sings, and, in fact, I often find myself overcome with the desire to read it aloud. I’m gushing, you say? Yes, yes, I know, but I can’t help it. I love this story so much that I honestly read it every year. It has just a dash of everything, love, hate, cruelty, kindness, regret, redemption, horror, and humor, all in the space of barely 100 pages.

We all know the story of A Christmas Carol so well, and it has so permeated our collective consciousness, that I think we tend to simply overlook it (or just watch one of the eleventy billion movie versions). But I sincerely urge everyone to give it a read and a few minutes of reflection. It is truly a beautiful tale, poignant and stirring with a lovely, hopeful message. That it is never too late to change your life. That each of us has the power to affect our fellow man, for good or ill. That we all need to take the time to examine our lives. That there is beauty and love everywhere, even in the poorest home by the most meager of fires.Fezziwigs' Dance

To read A Christmas Carol online for free at Project Gutenberg, click here.

As for the second book I read, well, let’s talk about that tomorrow.


3 Responses

  1. Well said. And I completely concur with your appraisal of “A Christmas Carol” as well as Dickens in general. In fact I’m currently reading “Great Expectations” to my (almost) six year old daughter. Unlike you, I’m unable to restrain the desire to read him aloud. And any excuse will do. (Fortunately, she loves him too.)

  2. My father used to tell me that my tendency to read aloud was a direct result of my Irish blood (high emotions paired with a gift for gab and a fondness for the sound of one’s own voice). I particularly can’t resist reading poetry aloud. I highly recommend trying Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” that way.

  3. I just did…read “Chicago” aloud, that is. By the end I’d become quite loud, prideful, and not a little defensive. For you, I suggest T.S. Eliot’s “Portrait Of A Woman.” Not sure why; just popped into my (Scots-Irish) mind.

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