One-Minute Book Reviews

December 18, 2007

Why Does ‘A Christmas Carol’ Work So Well As a Holiday Story? Quote of the Day (Jane Smiley)

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol — a sentimental novella about the redemption of a miser — could easily have turned to drivel. Why didn’t it? Here’s an answer from the novelist Jane Smiley:

A Christmas Carol, like Martin Chuzzlewit, concerns itself with the social ramifications of selfishness, but the characters of young Martin and old Martin are combined in that of Ebenezer Scrooge, and his moral journey, which takes place in three acts in one night, has the force of a revelation rather than the tedium of a lengthy trek by ox-drawn wagon. Some of the narrative had its origins in one of Dickens’s own vivid dreams, and surely the idea of of using dreams as a structural device had its origins there as well …

“But what makes A Christmas Carol work — what makes it so appealing a novella that William Makepeace Thackeray, Dickens’s most self-conscious literary rival, called it ‘a national benefit’ — is the lightness of Dickens’s touch. Instead of hammering his points home, as he does in Martin Chuzzlewit, he is content (or more content) to let his images speak for themselves.”

Jane Smiley in Charles Dickens: A Penguin Life (Viking/Lipper, $19.95) www.penguinputnam.com. Smiley’s novels include A Thousand Acres www.randomhouse.com, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

For more on Dickens, visit the site for the Dickens Fellowship www.dickensfellowship.org, a 105-year-old organization based at the Charles Dickens Museum in London, which has chapters throughout the U.S. and world.

The “Christmas Carol” in the title of Dickens’s novella is “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen,” which mentioned in the story. To listen to it, click here http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/o/godrest.htm.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

2 Comments »

  1. A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite traditions…but not necessarily in book form, the year I as born was the same year they released the Alistaire Simm version of A Christmas Carol, the movie, and I have watched it every year for as many years as I can remember. Love it, and the spirit in which it was written. Wonderful blog, by the way, I have a “fledgling” ebook & book review site myself.

    Have a blessed Christmas!
    Claudia

    Comment by happynutritionist — December 20, 2007 @ 10:00 pm | Reply

  2. So glad you brought up that version. Lately it seems that “It’s a Wonderful Life” has upstaged “A Christmas Carol” in reruns on television. I like that movie but would hate to see “A Christmas Carol” get squeezed out altogether by it. Thanks for helping to keep Dickens alive in the blogosphere …
    Jan

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 21, 2007 @ 4:15 am | Reply


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