I finished this one a few weeks ago but have been avoiding the review because I have felt inadequately equipped to do justice to such a well-known, well-loved, and well-respected work – especially since I claim to dislike Dickens so much. For once, I don’t want to offend anyone who may (like me) harbor fond childhood memories of hearing, reading, or even watching this story each year at Christmas and maybe each summer too. Furthermore, it’s just such a short piece that it’s difficult to find much at all to say.
However, I will begin by saying that I’m glad I read it. I know I was able to identify one or two differences between the original and the Muppet rendition, which is the version I am of course the most familiar with. (Without Gonzo narrating, it really is a different experience. And it was difficult to imagine Tiny Tim as a human and not a mini-sized Kermit the Frog.)
In hindsight, as I look back through my written comments in the margins of the book, I find that what I wrote most often, by a long shot, was “haha.” Comments that come in a close second, at least as far as their frequency of appearance, include “well written” and “I like this.” Beyond these, I made notes on the progression of the story and truly seem to have enjoyed myself and the read.
I discovered a newfound respect for Dickens and his skill that I didn’t know I could possess. I think I am willing to concede at least that he’s a good writer and had a pretty good sense of humor. However, prevalent in this narrative too are the telltale descriptions of poverty and brokenness that are so characteristic of Dickens, so I did have a proper measure of sorrow and depression through the read as well. (Thanks, Charlie. Wouldn’t have recognized it as your work without that stuff.)
My one complaint is actually double sided. On one hand, I like that the book is so short. It makes Dickens digestible and manageable for the first time ever. On the other hand, I’m not sure the progression of character development and Scrooge’s extreme maturation are entirely believable. After all, we’re merely glimpsing snapshots of his life but are also getting the impression that he has been angry, grouchy, and miserly for many, many years now. And for all that to change in one measly night? Stretching it. But again, since it is such a beloved story, I’ll say only that and hold my tongue against further lashings.
One surprise I encountered is in the portion of Christmas Future, when we witness the looters going through Scrooge’s stuff. I wrote in the margin, “I don’t think I’ve ever known this part of the story.” I’m not sure if it’s been left out of the re-tellings I’m familiar with or if I have just ignored it every time and somehow blocked it from my memory. In any case, it was certainly nice to be confronted with a detail I didn’t feel like I already knew backwards and forwards.
Other than these things, my final three notable margin comments were as follows:
“I had no idea Dickens could be so funny.”
“I know the dang story, yet I find tears in my eyes still! That blasted Dickens…”
[upon finding a word in all caps]: “All caps! Good. I need something to keep hating Dickens for.”
That last comment was written in the margin of the very last page, after I had filled the rest of the book with praise, laughter, and warm words about the story, the style of the narrative, and the author’s skill. So even in my final, defiant stand of hatred, I find myself admiring and feeling grateful to Dickens for throwing me one last bone so I can continue my persistent effort to dislike him. It’s noble and rather old world of him. Which I guess makes sense.
To sum up – read A Christmas Carol. It’s short and it’s great.