December 18, 2007

A Little Something Seasonal

From the TLS, a "guided tour" of Dickens's A Christmas Carol:
The rapidity of construction shows in the story’s gappy psychology (why, one might ask, does Scrooge become a miser?), but it also permits a number of strokes of genius, which, aptly for a haunting, seem to loom quickly and then vanish with a laugh. One or two of these are just metaphorical phosphorescences, such as the “dismal light” of the knocker that has become Jacob Marley’s face, shining “like a bad lobster in a dark cellar”. But others seem to me to be good examples of a writer’s highly refined process of selection and discard working at an unconscious level. (read the rest here)
I agree that in A Christmas Carol, as in many of Dickens's novels, there are "gappy" bits, but it does usually seem beside the point to fret over them, as his brilliance lies in other directions--or perhaps, as this piece suggests, his brilliance lies precisely in the rapidity of his ideas and images. One of our festive treats is listening to the wonderful recording of Michael Bawtree, formerly director of drama at Acadia University, reading A Christmas Carol. To borrow from another Dickens moment, he "do" the ghosts in different voices; it's a lovely version (but sadly, as far as we can tell, not commercially available, otherwise I'd link to it). This year we've also added the Muppet Christmas Carol to our stash of children's movies. Not only is it fun and fairly true in both detail and spirit to the original, but it features all our friends from the old Muppet Show, including Kermit as Bob Cratchit and the crotchety guys from the balcony (what are their names, anyway?) as Jacob and (in a slight variation!) his brother Robert Marley ("It's good to be heckling again! "It's good to be doing anything again!"). We even get Gonzo as Dickens to provide intrusive commentary and a bit more besides: "Wait a minute: how did you know that?" "I told you, storytellers are omniscient; we know everything!" "Well, hoity-toity, Mr. God-like Smartypants!"). Who could resist?


Dorian said...

The names of those immortal peanut gallery hecklers are Statler & Waldorf.

Recently discovered your blog--took a course with you when you first came to Dal--I have become a Modernist Scholar, I'm afraid, but not hostile to Victorian literature, I hope. (Reading Mayor of Casterbridge just now, in fact.)

Hope this finds you well.

Dorian Stuber

Rohan Maitzen said...

Thanks, Dorian! And nice to hear from you, too. That's OK: some of my best friends are modernists--truly. Where are you now?


Dorian said...

Astonishingly enough (well, astonishing to *me* many days), I'm in Little Rock, AR--just started a tenure-track gig at Hendrix College.


Vincenzo Ravina said...

The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favourite Christmas movie. I like how a lot of Gonzo's lines are verbatim from the source text. I think it is a pretty faithful adaptation! My father still prefers the 1951 Alastair Sim version. Whatever!