Christmas Carol First Edition

In twelve days, I will go to a theater to watch a play for the first time in eight years.

In twelve days, I will go to Northgate Station with my two teenage sons, my wife, and her mother. We will climb aboard the Link light rail and ride to downtown Seattle to see A Contemporary Theatre’s perennial holiday cash-cow stage adaptation of Charles Dicken’s classic novella, A Christmas Carol. If this were three years ago, and you knew anything about my history with the theatre as an artform, this news would be, at least to some degree, surprising, maybe even shocking. This is because eight years ago I made a big public stink about retiring from the artform for good.

So why am I going back now? Well, I have a hodgepodge of reasons, all sort of related, but they also stand on their own. So I thought I’d present them over the next twelve days, like a half advent calendar, leading up to the day we Mullins go to the show.


Dec. 1 / Reason 1  -  A Christmas Carol: The Book

I have always loved A Christmas Carol, going back to my first exposure to it, a radio play version put on by the various deejays, announcers, and on-air reporters  at WBAL in Baltimore, which was the city’s flagship adult contemporary radio station in the 70s. There’s nothing really like it one the air anymore, certainly not in Seattle. WBAL played a wide spectrum of pop music from the 40s forward to contemporary, but the station also ran news, sports, and hour-long interview programs featuring local figures: politicians, sure, but also local sports and entertainment luminaries. It played in the background at my house from the time my parents got up and had their first cup of coffee until they went to bed after their last cup of coffee. (I still don't understand how Mom and Dad could drink black coffee just before sleeping.)

I first read A Christmas Carol when I was maybe 12. It was a hard slog for me then, but I got through it, and enjoyed it, and it spooked me in all the right places. The novella is an astoundingly concise clockwork of a plot, moving the reader along relentlessly to its formalized conclusion. The language is rich: simultaneously lugubrious and cocksure.

Old Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

Was there ever an opening argument of a case stated more plainly than that? But Dickens then goes on to expand and expound, like Bach working up a fugal theme:

Old Marley was dead as a door nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the country’s done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Gah! I loved it as a kid, even barely understanding it as I did. And even back then I recognized how deeply and overtly political the story was.

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

Can’t we just round up these people living in tents and RVs and put them somewhere we don’t have to look at them every day?

I don't think it's some warm and fuzzy "Spirt of Christmas" that keeps us coming back to this book. I think it's the author's very sharp and very necessary spirit of radical progressive humanism.

Dickens thought we could do better.

And we still need to.











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