Saved by Scrooge

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly….
So Charles Dickens introduces A Christmas Carol, his "Ghost Story of Christmas," which found its first readers on this day in 1843 when Dickens proudly sent out gift copies to his friends, two days prior to the book's official publication. Les Standiford's The Man Who Invented Christmas is a combined personal and cultural biography, one that aims to make true on the subtitle, How Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits:
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the story behind this well-known story, however, is the pivotal role it played both in Dickens's career and in cultural history itself. At the time he sat down to write his "slender volume," Dickens's once unequaled popularity was at a nadir, his critical reputation in a shambles, his bank account overdrawn. Faced with bankruptcy, he was contemplating giving up on writing fiction altogether. Instead, he pulled himself together and, in six short weeks, wrote a book that not only restored him in the eyes of the public but began the transformation of what was then a second-tier holiday into the most significant celebration of the Christian calendar.

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

 

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.