Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Now that's what I call writing: Charles Dickens

Now playing on the iPod: "Waltz of the Snowflakes" from The Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky

It isn't Christmas until I read this segment from Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which bright, gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there, and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch there sat a jolly giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge as he came peeping round the door.

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Present," said the Spirit. "Look upon me!"

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple, deep-green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare, and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark-brown curls were long and free, free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanor, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard, but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.

Zut alors, how I love that passage. (The detail of the empty, rusty scabbard nags at me - clearly it has some significance, but what?)

Speaking of A Christmas Carol, I finally saw The Muppet Christmas Carol today and it's a joy to watch. Not only is it remarkably faithful to Dickens' text, but has some great humor ("Storytellers are omniscient; I know everything!" "Hoity-toity, Mr. God-like smartypants!"), and a fantastic performance by Michael Caine as Scrooge (all the more noteworthy because for the most part he was acting opposite some talking puppets). Go forth and watch it as soon as you can.

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