While The Stupidest Angel is my favorite Christmas book, I know it’s not the Christmas book “normal people” read.
No, that honor goes to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. But at least it has ghosts.
What? Did I actually spoil something? For this one, it’s all spoilers. If you haven’t read or seen some version of this story, you’ve been living under a rock.
I first read this book in 7th grade. In fact, I reread that same copy of the book. Having a mom who was an English teacher, there were always books around, so I have no idea if I’m the first one to own my copy or not. All I know is that my name’s written in the book (with a bunch of other scratched out things I appear to have written) and there are vocabulary words highlighted and underlined throughout from Ms. Lopez’s class.
That was the first time I read the book, but I doubt it’s the first time I heard the story. There are way too many renditions to list, so I was bound to already know the basics of the story. If I’m being honest, the earliest I can remember seeing the story (in a way) was A Flintstones Christmas Carol. This had the effect of me always associating the ghost of Christmas future with Dino. It’s hard to feel terror when you think the pet dinosaur is hiding beneath the cloak.
18 years later, why did I decide to finally reread the story? Well, one, it’s been 18 years. If the time gap was a human, it could now buy a pack of Lucky Strikes. Two, I have this blog. Got to drive traffic somehow, right? Three, I keep rereading a different Christmas book, so I thought I’d try the traditional route. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go find Skipping Christmas wherever that one’s been hiding and reread it.
I’ve now gone 300 words without actually talking about the book or my views of it. It’s a novella, with my copy being less than 90 pages of story. For such a classic, it’s easy to forget how short it is (especially when you see the adaptations taking so many liberties). Of course, now that I’m looking at my shelf, I have it sitting with another pair of books from Ms. Lopez’s class (The Outsiders and Call of the Wild) and turns out they’re not extensive books either. Of course, it was 7th grade, so that might be why those books were chosen.
The thing about classics is that they don’t draw me in all that much. I’ve read a fair amount, but I’ve also missed a lot of can’t-miss books over the years. In high school and college, we mostly read short stories. Most of the classics I read are the ones that were in the stacks of books in my closet as a kid. So while I’ve read A Tale of Two Cities (great book that is also the only book I feel asleep while reading; takes a while to get going), I’ve also missed 1984. I didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird until this past year. To make an overly long paragraph shorter, the classics don’t really draw me in.
The book’s broken into 5 staves: one to tell you how awful he is and for his friend warn him about how awful he is, one to see the past when he wasn’t so awful, one to see the present where almost everyone he knows calls him awful, one to see the future when being awful costs him the shirt off his dead back, and one to set things right after being so awful.
Let’s talk about Stave 1. Marley comes to warn Ebenezer so Scrooge doesn’t have Marley’s fate. We know how the story ends. Dino showed us the light. So knowing this, we know that Scrooge becomes less of a Scrooge, and presumably Marley is left to his fate. Ain’t that some stuff? He goes out of his way to help his buddy who is probably further along in being a jerk than Marley was when he died, and now Scrooge gets a chance for penance. Meanwhile, Marley’s dragging around chains forever.
Beyond that, not a lot flags for the book as standing out. It’s a fun little story. You get an idea that being a jerk isn’t really going to serve a purpose in the long run, and you might get the shirt stolen off your back after you’re dead if you don’t change your ways.
Personally, I shoved a bunch of pennies into a Salvation Army pot today, so I feel pretty secure that I will not be seeing any ghosts on Christmas Eve.
If you haven’t actually read the book yet, I’d encourage you to do so. Adaptations always water down some element or over-emphasize another. They try to add pizazz. There are ghosts in the story. It doesn’t need pizazz. And it’s less than 90 pages. Don’t tell me you don’t have time for 90 pages. If you’ve already read the book but haven’t in a while, I’d say revisit it. Rereading is a fun act. You get to really know the book.
So with that, have a good winter break. If you’re in the mood for Christmas terror, I’ve now given you two books. And if that’s not enough, there are plenty of stories about a creepy old man breaking into people’s homes and stealing cookies.