The Ghosts That We Knew Will Flicker From You

Something about the holidays makes me want to read the classics.  Austen, Dickens, Shelley, maybe some Henry David Thoreau.  This is my first Christmas as a Kindle owner and most of the classics are free downloads (thank you, Amazon), which is a nice perk.  In all my years as an avid reader, I’ve never before picked up A Christmas Carol.  Shocking, I know.  There’s no time like the present, I always say (okay, I never say that), and so, on December 1st, I began the long-time holiday favorite so adored by generations the world over.  Though it is a tale I am familiar with – how could anyone not be, what with the many screen adaptations – Dickens’ story did not disappoint.

It’s a quick, easy read (I finished it inside of 5 days) and well worth your time.  What I love about reading so-called classic literature is the language.  Language is one of the rare things that seems to become simpler, less refined as we evolve.  Unlike technology, social norms, architecture, medicine and nearly everything else that grows more complex and intricate the more we explore and develop it, language seems to grow coarser.  The vocabulary of the general public has shrunk down to a mere handful of verbs, nouns and adjectives (and adverbs- do they exist anymore? does anyone know what an adverb is these days?), repeatedly used to describe a multitude of things.  So many words have been lost over the centuries.  Slang is constantly changing, of course, but I’m not talking about slang.  I’m talking about words like apparition, ironmongery, intimation.  Words that can only be found in books like A Christmas Carol, the literature of a past time.  Which is part of the joy of reading, being transplanted into a wholly different place and time.

I won’t bother to go over the plot of A Christmas Carol, since I feel certain anyone who comes across this post is familiar enough with it already, but I will say that there are some details in it that have been omitted from most of the adaptations, details that, along with Dickens’ fine prose and style, make it a must-read for any fellow lover of literature.  And for those of you who don’t enjoying reading (or don’t enjoy the classics) but much prefer the art of film, here are my favorite adaptations of this beloved tale:

Scrooged– I’ve long felt that Bill Murray can do no wrong and this is another fine example.  A very modern take on this classic (for its time, that is…now it may seem a bit dated) and hilariously silly, while still retaining all of the emotion of the original.

Mickey’s Christmas CarolA 20-minute children’s version but, like most things created by Disney, well worth your time.  Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck are annual visitors at my house.

A Muppet Christmas Carol– Michael Caine is a wonderful Ebenezer Scrooge – perfectly capturing the depth of his evolution from greedy miser to generous, kind Christmas enthusiast.  Gonzo, pretending to be Charles Dickens, narrates with Rizzo the Rat, who provides witty comic relief.  Surprisingly enough, this is the most faithful adaptation I have yet to see.  Leave it to the Muppets to get it just right. 🙂

Which of the classics inspire you?



3 thoughts on “The Ghosts That We Knew Will Flicker From You

  1. Pingback: Nikki’s 2011 Reads | ravingmadscientists

  2. My favorite adaptation of A Christmas Carol is the one with George C. Scott. I especially love the classic Father Christmas look of the ghost of Christmas present. Now, to address your initial comments. Charles Dickens, that name alone transports me. You are so right about his prose and about our loss of the music of words. I love reading old letters and messages in books written with a fountain pen. The form created by the ink flowing unevenly through a nib is beautiful on its own merits but the everyday language used long ago sounds like poetry. I’ve oft considered (inside joke) the baseness of our society when listening to the nightly news programs. When news anchors (supposedly professional journalists) abuse the grammar of our language and change the pronunciation of words on a whim, e.g. paying homage (OM-age) has become paying oMAAAAJ (soft j). I sometimes feel I can’t live in this world. I love words skillfully assembled and it is painful to witness the lack of respect our language is afforded. Excellent post, or should I say “word”.

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