Archive for January, 2016

bookmark: the man who invented christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits – Les Standiford

It was Christmas time and it seemed like a good book to read for the season, and it was, plus I got a good deal on the Kindle version. While the author does acknowledge that Dickens didn’t actually “invent” Christmas, he does give a good account of what the subtitle says – how Dickens revived holiday spirits.

Anyone who has read any of Dickens knows that he was primarily interested in social reform, improving the lot of the common man. A Christmas Carol can easily be seen to comport with Dickens’ reform efforts, but it’s also a great tale on its own, as almost any human alive who celebrates Christmas knows.

The book has a tripartite structure, addressing salient biographical facts of Dickens life, some history of the English publishing industry in the mid-1800s, and finally, the cultural effect that A Christmas Carol had on the reading public.

I found it an interesting book and it certainly broadened my knowledge of the subject matters. While almost a scholarly work, it is not overburdened with footnotes and such, though there are references in the back of the book for those who would like to pursue them. I must admit that I’m not sure I would be as appreciative of the book if I had paid full price for it, though. Still, if the subject matter appeals to you, it’s worth reading.

Finished 1/19/16

bookmark: lucky jim

Lucky Jim – Kingsley Amis

Once upon a time I was a young man of twenty-four, the same age as Jim in this book. All too painfully he reminded me of what an ass I was at that age, and the fact that I was still not a “grown-up.” Because of this, I could relate to the main character. It is a story of learning how the choices you make, and don’t make, shape you as a person.

The “lucky” part of of the story is a bit of a deus-ex-machina, but I can excuse it because it doesn’t necessarily come out of the blue, and there are other lucky bits as well, if you consider plot elements as lucky occurrences. In the end, the luck part of the story is not as important as the development of the main character’s, um, character.

It happens as I was reading this book, I was going through some stuff in my own life that roughly paralleled what Jim was dealing with. Not only did that let me feel more sympathetic towards Jim, it helped me see my own situation more clearly. While I did not start reading the book knowing that would be the case, it’s always nice to find something more than just entertainment there.

The novel is rather well known, though I had not heard of it. First published back in 1954, it is set in post-WWII England. Americans might have a bit of difficulty sorting out some of the language or references, but that’s not a big issue. It is typically described as a comic novel, but it wasn’t a particular knee-slapper to me, though it did have it’s moments. If you want to broaden your reading repertoire, this is a good book to add.

Finished 1/9/16

bookmark: this is my beloved

This Is My Beloved – Walter Benton

This is a very short book of poetry. It speaks of love and loss. I bought this book for my wife before we were married. She loaned it to a friend, never to see it again. Many years later, as my wife and I are reestablishing our relationship, she wished for a new copy and, for Christmas, I gave her one.

As I read it, I realized that the physical aspects, the physical acts of love, are perhaps in my past, but the love and desire are as alive as ever. There is loss in the book, but in my wife’s and my relationship there is currently recovery. While the loss in the book is related to the loss of a love relationship, real loss is foreshadowed, making the poignancy of the words all the more relevant.

This book is part of our story. Perhaps it is part of yours, too.

Finished 1/2/16