In my family, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a huge part of our collective holiday understanding. When my sons were children, they and I performed in a production at Portland Stage Company; Dickens’ words have knit themselves into our memory yarn.
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 generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.
Picture yourself in a room full of children and teenagers, all able to recite these words by heart, conjuring up the image of the old man who prefigures so many other cold-hearted anti-heroes of modern literature. Imagine being able to conjure up the ghosts
, and beggars, and carolers, and Cratchit children for yourself. It’s a gift to know a story so well that it’s available when you need it in your mind, for your spirit.
Many of us know film versions of A Christmas Carol, with Scrooges as varied as Alastair Sim, Michael Caine, Bill Murray, Albert Finney, Patrick Stewart, Jim Carrey, and Scrooge McDuck, as well as gender-bending versions featuring Susan Lucci, Cicely Tyson, and Vanessa Williams. I have a coffee-table version of the book featuring photos from the IBM-sponsored version starting George C. Scott, and one of the now-grown-up actors in the family received an annotated version for Christmas some years ago.
What I haven’t had is a handy paperback, suitable to reading to a child (or oneself) in bed, or for tucking into a purse or backpack while traveling over the holidays. Paraclete Press has just published exactly the right edition for that need, one that includes the 1843 illustrations, with comfortably large print for bedside lamp-lighters. If you haven’t read the full text, or haven’t read it recently, it would be a great addition to your home library. And unless your holiday decorations are, well, Scrooge-like, it would be a perfect stocking stuffer.
Further, A Christmas Carol feels particularly timely classic this year, as in this closing to the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present, who pulls his robe back to reveal two children.
“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”
…”Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.
“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”
This passage always makes me shiver, just as the possible future for the Cratchits never fails to make me cry. I hope you will make A Christmas Carol part of someone’s life this Christmas.
I have complementary copies to give away, courtesy of Paraclete Press, to the first five commenters here or on my Facebook page. Thank you, Paraclete!
I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.