Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas, etc.

We are two days away from the actual day - that's December 25, for anyone who hasn't been paying attention, or who has been in a coma, or in hiding - so I am at even more of a loss about what to write than usual. Christmas has a way of doing that to one.

I will begin by saying that I am really pleased not to be living in Toronto just now (where I did live from 1961 to 1966), what with the weather-related disaster that has struck the city over the weekend. As though having the buffoonish, crack-smoking Rob Ford for Mayor of the city wasn't bad enough. Trees down, power outages, and manifold injuries to citizens. Can nuclear annihilation be far behind?

                    A police officer cordons off downed power line and tree branches in the Leaside area as freezing rain has left many parts of Toronto without power.

I am counting my blessings, which are many.

Starting with a good bottle of New Zealand Chardonnay one evening last week, when I watched my favourite Christmas movie, from 1951: A Christmas Carol - originally titled simply Scrooge - and starring the inimitable Alastair Sim as the miserly and miserable old skinflint in Victorian England.

  Scrooge – 1951 UK film poster.jpg

Some decades ago, I made an attempt to watch the George C. Scott version, but gave up halfway through. I was a big fan of Scott's acting talent, notably in his earlier films, but Scrooge he was not, and never - IMHO - could be.

Did any other author invent so many brilliant names to match his characters, I wonder? "Ebenezer Scrooge", "Bob Cratchit", and "Old Fezziwig", from a Christmas Carol, and a host of others.

Wikipedia devotes an entire website to Dickens's character names:

Just a few examples to show how creative the man was:

The Barnacle Family, in Little Dorrit, who control the "Circumlocution Office", where everything goes round in circles, and nothing ever gets done.

Cornelia Blimber, a prim school-matron in Dombey & Son.

Sampson Brass, from The Old Curiosity Shop, "an attorney of no good repute" and "one of the greatest scoundrels unhung".

Mr. Bumble, the hopelessly nasty and idiotic Beadle from Oliver Twist.

Uriah Heep, the hypocritical clerk from David Copperfield, who is continually citing his humbleness.

Mr. Murdstone, the unpleasant husband of David Copperfield's mother, Clara.

Mr. M'Choakumchild, the grinding schoolteacher in Hard Times.

Seth Pecksniff, from Martin Chuzzlewit, the sanctimonious surveyor and architect "who has never designed or built anything", and "one of the biggest hypocrites in fiction".

And so it goes.

Thinking about the wonderful names that Dickens created, started me thinking about great lines and bits of dialogue from novels.

There's some great dialogue near the start of A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is finishing his evening meal at a tavern, just prior to his fateful encounter with his late partner, Jacob Marley, and it neatly defines his character:

"More bread," Scrooge says to the waiter.
"Ha'penny extra, sir," the waiter replies.
"No more bread," says Scrooge, scowling.

From Sherlock Holmes, via Arthur Conan Doyle, in Silver Blaze:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time," Holmes replies.
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.  

And from The Hound of the Baskervilles:

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”  

And again, from ACD:

“As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”  

From Eoin Colfer, in Half-Moon Investigations:

"In my experience, boys are predictable. As soon as they think of something, they do it. Girls are smarter—they plan ahead. They think about not getting caught.”  

From G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown:

“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic.”  

From John. D. MacDonald, creator of Travis McGee, in Darker Than Amber:

“We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody threw the girl off the bridge.”

From James Crumley, in The Last Good Kiss:

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”  

From P.D. James, in Original Sin:

“Daniel supposed he had a secret life. Most people did; it was hardly possible to live without one.”  

From Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

“She was dull, unattractive, couldn't tell the time, count money, or tie her own shoe laces... But I loved her.”  

From Robertson Davies, author of The Deptford Trilogy:

“One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.”  

Which seems to me a good quote with which to conclude this - mostly derivative - post.

To all, from snowy Ottawa, a very Merry Christmas.

And Happy Writing, and Reading.

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