Friday, December 17, 2010

Why *is* a door-nail the deadest piece of ironmongery?

In honor of the Christmas season I've decided to read Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  I have a nice copy of the book with the full illustrations I got years and years ago and I'm sure it's somewhere safe.  I just don't know where that safe place is.  Instead I am reading it on my iPod.  Awhile back, when I was first looking into eReaders, I downloaded the Kindle and iBooks apps, along with 1 free book each, to see what I thought of them.  A Christmas Carol happened to be my Kindle buy so this worked out nicely.  And reading on my iPod isn't as bad as I assumed it would be.  The screen is small but it doesn't bother me too much while I'm actually reading.  I'll still take a real book over reading on this screen though.

My favorite adaptation.
I'm not going to review the book because what am I going to say that hasn't been said a million times far more eloquently than I could put it.  I won't bother describing the plot because even if you've never read the book you've seen one of the thousands of adaptations of it I'm sure.  Perhaps if you live in a mud hut you've managed to escape all of them, but then again you're most likely lacking internet as well, which means you aren't reading this.  Instead I'll talk about the humor of the story, which I think a lot of the adaptations ignore.  They might be funny in a different way, but I think most miss the humor of the original.  Except for A Muppet Christmas Carol which uses a lot of direct quotes from the story PLUS singing Muppets! Which is why it's my favorite Christmas movie.

What surprised me the first time I really read and paid attention to A Christmas Carol was how funny it is.  The first few pages are my favorite of the book.  Sure it's mostly Dickens going off on a tangent about door-nails and coffin-nails but I love it.  For those unfamiliar with the details of this opening, here they are:
"Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.  Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.  I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.  But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for."
 I probably find this so funny because I could see myself musing on a topic like this and then losing track of what I was originally talking about while I was on my coffin vs door nail argument.  And a coffin nail does make way more sense as the most dead piece of iron.  What's so dead about a door?  Is it more dead than a window?  What if it's a door to a morgue?  Still has lots of live people going through it while the coffin is just full of dead people.  And I'll get off my tangent now.

I like the early parts of the book the best because it's when Scrooge is the nastiest and the most fun to watch.  Sure I want him to be saved and become nice but he's fun to watch when he's a crotchety old man and I love him talking with Marley.  When confronted with the ghost he tells him that he's just a figment of indigestion and if he wanted to he could swallow a toothpick and then have a legion of goblins. Scrooge makes puns in a situation where I would have cowered under the covers. 

So those are my admittedly not-very-deep reasons for liking this book so much.  For those that have read it or are at least familiar with the adaptations, why do you like or hate this story?

The title is at least in relation to the quote I used earlier.  I'm not exactly sure how to get page numbers off this Kindle app but it lists the location as 9-12.  If that means anything to you, super.  It doesn't to me.