The introduction in my copy of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, written by the dramatist Lionel Barrymore - known to modern audiences as the villainous Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life - starts, “To contemplate Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is to stand in awe before a mighty edifice of heroism and cowardice, anchored deep in the soil of all humanity.” That’s comically overwritten and sounds, to me, like a huge drag, a particularly bad match with a text that’s still somehow sprightly and fun after 180 years of popularity. (The introduction does get better, in fairness.) There’s a remarkable narrative efficiency to the story, such that a child who has seen a film version can probably faithfully recount what happens, which is funny; typically you’d come to Dickens looking for the opposite of concision. So I don’t care for that portentous windup. But deep in the soil of (at least) English-speaking humanity? There, I think I can follow.
© 2023 Fredrik deBoer
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