14 December 2014

What the Dickens...?

Inventing Scrooge: Dickens' Legendary A Christmas Carol, Carlo DeVito
I can't figure out if DeVito's former English teachers are going to be chuffed that an old student had a book published or if they're going to hide their heads in shame at his awkward sentence structure and downright howlers.

I think if I hadn't read other books about the origins of A Christmas Carol (the material in the annotated version, The Man Who Invented Christmas, and the fascinating The Life and Times of Ebenezer Scrooge), I might have been more forgiving to this book. There are certain interesting facts in this one, such as the origins of Tiny Tim and nephew Fred, Scrooge's and Marley's names—oh, and the John Leech color plates from the original book are reprinted in their glory on the endpapers, but they're marred by simplistic text, repetition, padding, typos, and a few incredible grammar errors. This is most obvious in the chapter "Fred," where in paragraph 4 it says "In 1824, at the age of fourteen, Charles took Fred in when he moved into a three-room apartment..." Wait. Charles moved into an apartment at the age of fourteen? No, it was Fred who was fourteen, judging by the previous paragraph. In the next few paragraphs, we hear about Dickens' father, wife, two men named Willis and Marcone, and then in paragraph 10, talking about Dickens' post-marital household: "In addition to Mary, young Frederick Dickens...was now a member of the household." Mary? Who the heck is Mary? She hasn't been mentioned in the chapter at all. In paragraph 11 come the topper: "And when Kate's sister Mary [ah, now he explains it] was suddenly seized by a grave illness, of whom Charles was immensely fond..." I read this twice, then read it aloud to my husband, who said, "Wait, he was immensely fond of grave illness?" Egad.

It's stuff like this that ruins a potentially good book. In short, I liked the trivia, but the execution was less than sterling. If you can find this on remainder, I suggest you buy it that way.

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