Friday, December 23, 2005

A Christmas Carol

Penguin Books has, for the last week or so, been podcasting a reading by Geoffrey Palmer of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". I admit to being a complete softy and overly romantic but on Thursday as I sat at work finishing a lame piece of coding before the holidays I found myself welling up over the "...and Tiny Tim, who did not die..." ending and I wondrered why. Certainly I've read the book a few times and though I love it dearly it had never had this effect upon me before. Perhaps there is a certain type of story, like myths and legends, which cry out to be read aloud, as a more social experience than the solitary act of reading? "A Christmas Carol" is unquestionably such a powerful part of the festive period that it is hard to believe that until 1843 it did not exist. Rather like the ancient myths and legends it seems to been here since before time began. Then again, it could be the childlike and episodic qualities of the story that call out for a reading rather than for us to read. I have always loved the Greek myths and the most profound impact that they ever had was when Tony Robinson read/acted them out on BBC TV's "Jackanory" series of children's programmes. Of course, now I know that that is how they were intended to be experienced, even Homer was written to be performed, and came from the oral tradition - it is so much more powerful to hear the flow of the language and the rhythm carry the listener to this new world, either of the Hellenes or Victorian London. By having the story read aloud to us it provides a part of our imagination freer rein to experience the narrative and to bypass the analytical parts of the brain that have to be invoked to decipher the squiggles on a page into meaning. Many of the better books I have read that work best when read directly are more cerebral in nature, not so simply emotionally charged. Perhaps that's it, the simple, emotional directness of the spoken word communicates these types of story more clearly?

Well, gentle reader, have a peaceful holiday with you and yours and as Tiny Tim said, "God bless us every one".

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