The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Most of All, Beware This Boy

Since the Christmas lights in Oxford Street this year are an advertisement for the Disney film A Christmas Carol, Britain's leading liberal newspaper has an informative little puff piece noting the most important aspect of Dickens' original story; namely the financial rewards thereof. Owing largely to the extravagant outlay involved in publishing the book in a special gift edition with gold-stamped binding, gilded page edges and hand-coloured illustrations, Dickens made very little money from A Christmas Carol, even though it became a best-seller and was in the theatres by the following February - a timetable even the modern 500-page draft screenplay (or "popular fiction blockbuster" as it is generally known) would be hard put to keep. The literary correspondent of Britain's leading liberal newspaper ends by referring to Dickens' book with the teeth-grating phrase "instantly classic"; for which I trust that the ghosts of Literature Past, Book-trade Present and intertxt.fut will exact due retribution.

Although I have very little acquaintance with Dickens, even through feature films or the BBC, I did read A Christmas Carol as a child, in the family's fancy book-club edition. It contained one of the most frightening pictures I had ever seen; rather fittingly, I did not know what Ignorance meant, and I remember that I interpreted Want not as the Victorian noun meaning hardship but as the modern verb meaning wish or desire. I knew that it was bad manners to say "I want", and I assumed that the moral of this episode was something along similar lines. (I also used to have a children's edition of the Arabian Nights whose characters were always giving and receiving purses of sequins, which I took to be black leather purses with metal catches, full of tiny glittering bits.)

Somewhat later, I wrote a sequel to A Christmas Carol, which can be found in four fits under Stories on the sidebar. It didn't make me any money, either.


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