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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Watch the film, skip the book., December 9, 2012
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This review is from: A Christmas Story: The Book That Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film (Hardcover)
I've had my fill of Christmas and it's only the ninth of December!

The reason is after years of promising myself, I finally read Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol. And my book club selection was A Christmas Story: The Book That Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film by Jean Shepard. The first created our modern Christmas. The second, well, the second was the basis for a gag-filled, funny movie. Both are touchstones of modern, American Christmases

I'm not a Dickens fan but in reading these two short works almost simultaneously, I was surprised by one thing: even though I'm separated from Dickens by the Atlantic and one-hundred and seventy years and unfamiliarity with the Victorian world and a familiarity with the the settings -- if not the times --- of Shepherd's stories, I so much more preferred Dickens to Shepherd.

I've given some thought to this. It's not like I'm was surprised by the narrative. They're pretty much what I've seen on the TV for decades. It's not that I knew that after Jean Shepherd divorced his second wife, he completely ignored his under seven son and daughter he'd had with her for the rest of his life. Dickens' wasn't a great husband or father either. (Then again, he at least didn't publicly deny their existence and did support his children.)

I finally realized why I liked Scrooge's story over Ralphie's. It's that Dickens is Charles freakin' Dickens and Shepherd is, well, Jean Shepherd.

Dickens can be "a vein of saccharine sentimentalism", true. But it is called A Christmas Carol. People are wanting saccharine sentimentalism. Ayway, it is leavened with rather dark passages that offer great balance. In fact, there's one scene that Dicken's writes that I've never seen touched on the the many films. It's part of the tour that the Second Ghost gives Scrooge.

"Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea--on, on--until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remember those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him."

I found that wonderful and joyous. It's Christmas.

Compare that to the moment after the Bumpesses hounds ruined the Christmas turkey. In the short story, it's actually an Easter ham.

"Finally, he [the old man] spoke, in a low, rasping voice: "All right! OK! Get your coats. We're going to the Chinese joint. We're going to have chop suey."

Ordinarily, this would have been a gala of the highest order, going to the chop-suey joint. Today, it had all the gaiety of a funeral procession. The meal was eaten completely in silence."

Not quite a chorus of Chinese Fa-La-La-La-La's of the film, is it? Not very....Christmas-y, really?

In other not-so-obvious ways, you can feel the sharp edge of post-modernism -- or is it nihilism? Well, whatever -ism it is that tells you not to have joy in this world -- creeping it's way into stories.

The final thing that turned me off a bit to Shepherd was, again, the Bumpuses. The family -- not just the dogs -- is detailed in the story. I found it offensive. While Dickens almost beatifies the poor. Shepherd depiction is so full of cultural smears and stereotypes that would be considered very bad taste if applied to another group of people. And Shepherd just keeps going on and on with pilling cliche after cliche on them including a mention of father-daughter incest. It just got tiring.

With A Christmas Story, stick to the movie. With A Christmas Carol, read the book...and watch the 113 movies made of it.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 26, 2013 3:23:05 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 27, 2013 1:19:33 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 26, 2013 12:08:07 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 26, 2013 12:10:50 PM PST
Why don't you get off the internet. It's almost like you didn't read this guys post at all. For the most part, all he did was say he liked one, and didn't like the other while he read them both at the same time.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2013 1:20:22 AM PST
Patrick says:
Fair enough.
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