Pros: charming story and characters; good for Christmas
Cons: dragged, sometimes boring; facsimiles nearly unreadable
It has been said that Victorian writers, of which Charles Dickens was one, were masters of sublimation. Because they could not write about sex or sexual matters, they became adept at writing about things that symbolized eroticism. Some possible examples are vampires, sharing food, playing team sports, use your imagination. I first read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: The Graphic Novel where most of the original text was included, but I wondered how much of the description was sacrificed and if that made a big difference to the story’s flow and meaning. When I spotted A Christmas Carol: The Original Manuscript, which includes a facsimile of the manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library, in my public library, I decided to find out.
You probably know the 1843 story. Old, stingy businessman snarls about celebrating Christmas and gets visited on Christmas Eve by the chained ghost of his former business partner who wants him to change his miserly ways before ending up like him. He then sends Scrooge three spirits (the Spirit of Christmas Past, the Spirit of Christmas Present, the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come) to encourage him in this, a nostalgic and provocative journey that meets with great success.
I fail to discern a hidden sexual meaning in this story, although there was an exuberant description of Scrooge’s nephew’s Christmas dinner for two pages. Dickens, starving no doubt, must’ve been dreaming of eating a banquet fit for a king, but it was probably meant to symbolize the sacred communion of eating with family and celebrating Christ’s birthday. Dickens’ purpose is to show that since Scrooge was invited, but hadn’t come, he was not really a Christian. The ghosts represent his conscience (like Jiminy Cricket!). If anything is sublimated in A Christmas Carol, it would be the morality lesson presented by the three spirits. The first reminds Scrooge (visually) of how he grew up very poor and became a greedy businessman who lost his only girl because of it. The second, indeed a king-like apparition sitting in the midst of mounds of rich foods when Scrooge meets him, takes him to places where poor Christians are celebrating Christmas with joy. The last, a silent, hooded spectre in black, shows him what’ll happen to him if he doesn’t change his ways, although Scrooge doesn’t realize the horrible truth until he sees his gravestone. (Some conscience!)
The story is much more, ahem, fleshed out in the complete text. Dickens not only wrote in Victorian English to my occasional confusion, but also with much description and commentary not found in my graphic novel version. I’ve mentioned the pages about a carnivore’s dinner and that was followed by pages of simples games like blind man’s bluff and others that didn’t interest me. A good story doesn’t digress for so long from its main character on his quest and I skimmed such digressions. While it reveals the innocence found in the Victorian world, it was verbose and boring. The ugliness of this world was also revealed to much better effect, at least for me.
My library book included facsimiles of each original, scrawled page of Dickens’ manuscript, revealing a lot of scratched-out words and corrections that made it nearly impossible to read. I didn’t try too hard, but most people wouldn’t. Unless you’re a huge fan of A Christmas Carol, I doubt you need to see the facsimiles on one side of the page and its cleaned-up, printed page on the other.
Only 140 pages with eight black-n-white sketches or wood engravings by original illustrator John Leech, this charming story dragged and meandered a little more than I liked and lost the intensity of the graphic novel.
An entry in the Lean-n-Mean write-off. Please see http://www.epinions.com/user-sleeper54 for more info.