Thursday, November 13, 2008

I hear "The Chimes" at midnight yet again...

Every year at the bookstore, I read Truman Capote's little sentimental masterpiece, "A Christmas Memory" aloud, to celebrate the Holiday Season, as we call it in retail.  Years and years ago, when I was living in San Francisco, I went every year to hear just such a performance at a bookstore there. Now that reading was given by a wonderful retired actor.  Mine, alas, is entirely amateur, if somewhat... practiced, shall we say? by now.  This has become a tradition for me and the bookstore and I confess, I look forward to it every December.  Whatever my shortcomings as a reader, I like to think, as they used to say on the "Society Page" in my little hometown newspaper about any local event other than a funeral, "a good time will be had by all."

This year's reading of "A Christmas Memory" will be Wednesday, December 3rd, at 7PM at the bookstore in Seattle, with encores at Bellevue & Mill Creek 
 (check the Reading Aloud Events Schedule for a reading near you.)  Please do come.

Additionally, on Tuesday, December 9th,  at 7PM, I will be reading Charles' Dickens' 
"The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In."  This will be a first for me.  Back in February, I helped celebrate the Great Man's Birthday with two selections from his novels, both taken from his own adaptations for his celebrated public readings.  Again, I like to think, "a good time was had by all."  (At least, no one complained to the management about the noise.) Emboldened, I added this reading of Dickens' second Christmas Book -- written the year after "A Christmas Carol," -- to my
 schedule.  The exceptionally good people in our Events Department indulged me yet again, bless 'em.

The only problem now is adapting Dickens' reading copy of "The Chimes" for an audience unfamiliar with the story.  Had I simply read the more justly famous "Carol," I need not have spent, as I have, so many long nights typing, scribbling and sweating to communicate something of the true magic and power of this lesser known work to a contemporary audience.  Dickens' didn't have this problem when he did his readings of "The Chimes."  In the first place, he was, by all reports, a truly remarkable actor and his readings of his own work were considered one of the wonders of the Victorian Age.  Oh.  In the second place, Dickens' audience knew his other Christmas Books -- he wrote five all together -- as well as they knew his "Carol."  Certainly, now as then,  everyone knows Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the rest as well as any characters in the history of literature.  But contemporary  audiences
 probably don't know this second story or dear old Toby "Trotty" Veck at all.

Well, you should.

And so, I'm up tonight again, typing, scribbling, etc., in the hope of doing justice to Charles Dickens, Toby, and The Chimes.   I won't, of course, but I'll do my best.

I hope you can come and hear the result.

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