We had a shorter than normal gap between two reading circle meetings before Christmas, and so we opted for reading some Christmas stories rather than a novel. The longest was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, my suggestion. The story, of course, is well known to us all, I don’t know how many versions of it I’ve read or seen on screen, however, I have never actually read the original story.
I’m not a Dickens fan. I’ve never managed to finish any of the novels, or even get very far into them (I’ve read around half of Oliver Twist, other than that my record is probably twenty or so pages). I think my main problem is that he was paid per inch, so there is too much filler. Emminently written and beautifully described filler, but filler none the less. When he spends two pages describing a fairly minor character who comes into a room I lose interest, I’m afraid.
But A Christmas Carol is something else. It gives no impression of uneccessary verbosity, and in consequence it is quite beautiful.
“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. “Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”
Bah, humbug, indeed.
Somewhat unfairly, the story suffers slightly from having become a cliché, though since most versions take liberties, there is something to be said for giving the original its due attention. And language-wise it can’t be bettered.