In the long list of Things I Intend Never to Do Again -- updated almost weekly nowadays -- there are some activities precluded by encroaching middle-age; such as dancing to fast songs, keeping up with current slang, and wearing tight shoes. I could go on, but won't. Other tasks, I've come to admit, are simply beyond me; like reading Joyce, doing algebra, and learning to appreciate the finer points of modern opera. There are tasks I undertook convinced I would do well, and yet failed to master; and here cooking Chinese food at home, baking my own bread and learning Latin come most quickly to mind. I remain resolved, regarding the above.
In perhaps no other subset of my list have I so regularly failed, as under the heading of Books I Will Not Buy. I said I'd never read another
book on Lincoln, and that even if I did, I'd never buy another, and then one of my favorite American historians, William Lee Miller, heretofore reliably not a Lincoln man, published, in 2002, Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography, and I bought it. And I read it. And it was, predictably, fascinating. Since then, I've allowed myself no more than three or four other books on the subject, but still, you see the danger of the slippery slope here, don't you? And with
Lincoln's Bicentennial coming...
And now, I've let myself go again and bought yet another new book on a subject I ought not to need or want to ever read about again: The
Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, by one Les Standiford.
I do not need to read this story again. I do not need to own another book about Charles Dickens. I do not know Mr. Standiford or his works. But the book was pretty. The introduction, read o
ver lunch, was well written and charming. At $19.95, the book was not outrageously priced. And, for all I knew, this book might have information I might find helpful when writing my introduction for my new Christmas reading this year at the store -- December 9th, at 7PM, tell your friends,-- of one of Dickens's other Christmas Books, The Chimes, so...
Well, damn. I bought it. I read it. I recommend it.
If all you know of the "Carol" is a movie or television version, you really ought to read the novel. It is a perfect book. If you want to read a fascinating story not only of Dickens, but of Christmas and how it came to be Christmas as we imagine it now, then read this new book.
And if, like me, you intend to go on making lists, resolutions and the like, be prepared to acknowledge, as I've had to yet again, just what irresolute, weak, self-indulgent creatures we humans really are. I speak here, of course, primarily, though not exclusively I'm sure, for myself.
God bless us, every one.