Dylan Thomas and Trina Schart Hyman - Beacon Lights of History: Imperial Antiquity

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~CHRISTMAS AT THE RIM OF THE CAROL SINGING SEA~

Aug 11, 2007 (Updated Aug 16, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Engaging Tale with Rightly Paired Illustrations; Designed to “Gift;” Sized to Send; Modestly Priced.

Cons:Little conventional punctuation. Some will find it too involved. Sometimes hard to find.

The Bottom Line: IT'S A MASTERPIECE of expressive language and graphic art.


This is a review of the little blue paperback pictured.
It is a short story, in lyric verse, by Dylan Thomas;
Woodcut illustrations by Ellen Raskin;
Published by New Directions.



With this short story in verse, acclaimed Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) exhibits a fierce mastery of imagery that reaches into his own beginnings in seaside Swansea to pull out Christmas reminiscence that, among other things, speaks of snowballs, sleeping uncles, wind-cherried noses, and “cats that slink and sidle over white back-garden walls.”


The Gist of It

The tale evolves from an interchange between a somewhat cryptic and reflective adult, and a spunky youngster who interjects with such story-stopping remarks as:

CHILD: "... the postmen"
ADULT: "They were just ordinary postmen … They knocked on the doors with blue knuckles ...."
CHILD: "Ours has got a black knocker...."

Upon first reading, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, quite literally, took my breath away. The engaging, neo-classic, introduced when Thomas read it aloud on one of his many early 1950s radio broadcasts, is punctuated not so much by commas and periods as with waves of recollection undulating from misty visions of sea-town childhood Christmas celebrations past.

In lyric prose, we learn of snow “shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, growing” overnight on the roofs of houses where there is sherry, walnuts and bottled beer … carols … blazing pudding … tall tale-telling … and "useful" as well as "useless" presents.

Sometimes the poet’s juxtaposition of calm and ludicrous … or, of quiet and foreboding … incites laughter, or focuses attention on a particular memory he chooses to, momentarily, hold still in an otherwise kaleidoscopic review. Either way, A Child’s Christmas in Wales can be as much a jolly good time for children as it can be for you and me.


One Child’s Experience

Our 3-year old, for example, had Christmas Eve belly laughs when he heard that the gong “bombilated” and that lads smirked as they swallowed candy cigarettes.

At 8, he giggled to discover one of the “useless presents” -- a celluloid duck “that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo that an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow;” -- in his own stocking.

At 16, our young man enjoyed the reading itself … smiling as we revived Mrs. Prothero and the fire brigade … fingering the little blue booklet’s richly textured paper while playing a card game on the side … once again, waiting for Christmas to arrive.

At 20, receipt of the familiar blue envelope (a companion piece to the paper-bound booklet), signaled home-going time for a budding computer engineer; and, at 26, a new age businessman read the story to a niece of his very own; but, unlike the uncles of Swansea of yore, this uncle didn’t play fiddle. Instead, he turned to a PS2 DDRMAX2* to wear down the child’s enthusiasm for the night.

Times change, but A Child’s Christmas in Wales spans the gap.


Woodcuts by Ellen Ruskin

As if the mental images Thomas draws aren’t enough, the New Directions, paper-bound version of A Child’s Christmas in Wales is illustrated with earthy woodcut prints created by Ellen Ruskin; folk imagery rightly paired with the poem’s carefully contrived nonchalance.


Handy Size

The size of this booklet offers a bonus. With its coordinating envelope, it’s small enough (at a bit more than 5-inches square) to serve as an extra-special greeting card, yet large enough to wrap as a stand-alone gift. With a cost of less than $10 and its unique character, the booklet is one of my favorite gifts to give.


I recommend “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” as a wonderful read and a choice gift.

It isn’t for everyone, though. Some will find that even listening to the tale is “too much like work.” For those adults in your life, consider giving WorldChanging – reviewed here: http://www.epinions.com/content_399949205124.

Even if Dylan Thomas is not your cup of tea, do buy a copy of the little, blue paperback version of A Child’s Christmas in Wales if you see it. It isn’t always available, but is in print this year (2007). Sooner or later you’re bound to be glad you tucked it aside, because, it’s been compared to Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and even though it has a whimsy that also can be had in the Princess Bride, and may not quite rival The Nutcracker for secular Christmas story popularity … still, there is nothing quite like A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

--------------------------------------------------

… I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music
rising from them up the long, steady falling night.
I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales


* Footnote: Play Station 2 “Dance Dance Revolution: MAX2”music video game: http://www.epinions.com/content_147709202052




THIS IS AN ENTRY into ifif1938's Fabulous French and Equally Endearing English (anything Great Britain) Finds write-off celebrating her having published 500 Epi reviews. CONGRATULATIONS, IFIF! For more see: http://www.epinions.com/user-ifif1938 and scroll deep down.



Thank you for visiting. -- Sunpot




Recommend this product? Yes

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