05 January 2015
So Many Nights Before Christmas
The Annotated Night Before Christmas, Martin Gardner
Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" forms the basis of this book that features not just an annotated version of the poem—otherwise the book would be about six pages—but as many of the parodies and similarly-metered poems that have been written in the succeeding years. (Incidentally, the first thing Gardner says in his introduction is "I hope no one imagines that I regard the selections in this book as good poetry," which makes him sound incredibly snobby right off the bat. But, truly, there is much doggerel in this book.) It also opens with a brief biography of Moore and his estate, which gave the New York City neighborhood "Chelsea" its name, Christmas in Moore's time, and the history of St. Nicholas, before descending into homage and parody, the earliest which was written only a scarce dozen years after the original. (Most of the earliest "sequels" are 19th century polemics against gluttony and greed.) There are alcoholic versions, one portraying an exhausted salesgirl, fairy tale incursions, even a collection of "MAD" magazine versions and a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, plus various ethnic versions (Cajun, hillbilly, etc.) in excruciating dialect.
Near the end there's a "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" chapter, since the original Rudolph story (not the Rankin-Bass classic) was written in the same meter, as well as its lost sequel, Rudolph's Second Christmas.
For Moore fans everywhere. To be read slowly, however, over several nights, or else the poems read one after the other become frankly annoying.