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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Department of Book Reports: A Christmas Carol

We've posted this here the past two years, and, of course, it holds up this year...and will again next year. Want and ignorance remain with us. There are so many people out of work, or just trying to make ends meet that their holiday isn't gonna be all that great. An Austerity Christmas for many, if any at all. And ignorance? Just look at the news.

The following is, of course, from the climax of Stave Three, as Dickens called it, when Scrooge is abandoned by the Spirit of Christmas Present. Among my English major friends, Charles Dickens is regarded as a rank sentimentalist, and, worse, a writer who achieved popularity with the reading public of his time. At the same time, I argue that he was also one of the most acute social critics of the 19th Century, and a critic that helped transform that world for the better.

The scene below contains one of the most powerful images in English Literature. And it still holds true today.

Happy Holidays from SeattleDan and Seattle Tammy!From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. "Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. "Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more. "They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end."
"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.
"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"
The bell struck twelve.

Les Standiford has a timely book out just now, The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits (Crown Publishing, $19.95) NPR has an excellent excerpt in their Indie Bookseller's Round-up.

As always, lovely books can be found at your favorite independent bookstore. Book orders can be placed 24 hours a day at Jackson Street Books.


  1. ah....well done!!
    Merry merry to you both :) Thanks for all the great reports these past years and for all the wonderful books!

  2. Dear Seatte Dan & Tammy:

    I was hoping to get all of the General's loyalists something really special for Christmas this year. I was thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to having a book deal signed with my publisher, a nice man in Ghana, who was willing to do my whole pressrun for free, as long as I would forward him a check for $62,851.19 to cover shipping and handling. Regrettably, my accountant informs me that if shit was free, I still couldn't afford it. Damn, how do like them apples. Oh, well, you'll just have to be happy with the Xmas letter that I sent out.

    If all of the General's adherents could see their way clear to send my some cash I could afford to get that book out just in time for the start of barbecue season. I sent out a number of fund raising requests and thus far of the $79,622.39 I need to satisfy that nice man in Ghana I have collected all but $96,951.18. I gotta get me a new calculator.

  3. Among my English major friends, Charles Dickens is regarded as a rank sentimentalist, and, worse, a writer who achieved popularity with the reading public of his time.

    Of course they feel that way! They're litsters. Lit hipsters. Any book that anybody's read isn't cool enough. Obscurity, baybee! You can't feel superior to the unwashed uncultured unless you have one over them, this book that's SO great that no one but you understands it.

    I'm that way myself. There's this woman I read who hand-writes all her novels using her OWN blood. You don't wanna know how she gets it. It's like the blood communicates her very ESSENCE onto the pages. She makes her own artisanal paper, of course. Your store doesn't carry any of her work, by any chance? No? Tant pis. You don't know what you're missing.

  4. Of course, my favourite authoress isn't the only person to ink a book using their own blood. This bastard was a copycut, though.

    We need more American politicians to shed something sanguine for their best-sellers. exRealPresident Cheeeeeeeeeney can't because his blood has been replaced with that glowing yellow substance that makes werewolves' eyes so shiny. futureVeep Palin can have her books printed using the blood of un-lifeworthy animals she's personally killed. Her schtick sells so well, I'm thinking Regnery Publishing will have to turn her loose in the stockyard with a chainsaw. I'm sensing footage for the opener of Sarah's Alaxea Season II!!!!!!


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.