Tuesday 24 December 2019

Abridging A Christmas Carol

It’s been quite a year for the Secret Victorianist, and 2020 is set to be even more exciting, with the publication of my forthcoming novel, Bronte’s Mistress. Happy Christmas and, whether you’re new here or have been following along since 2013, thank you for reading!

In keeping with the festive season, in this post I recount a conversation with Jesse Kornbluth, a writer who recently took on abridging a seasonal classic—Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843).

Jesse is the writer behind Head Butler, a website that aims to be your cultural concierge, covering books, movies, music and more. His abridged version of A Christmas Carol, created with children and those listening to the story aloud in mind, is now available on Amazon.

Me: Jesse, what made you want to take on the (formidable!) job of abridging one of the English language’s best-loved novelists?

J: I remember Arthur Bliss Perry, the aged and legendary headmaster of Milton Academy, reading A Christmas Carol to us in a dimly lit library before we left school in December. He didn’t read the entire story. Fifty years later, when I tried to read it to my daughter, she couldn’t bear it after five minutes. So I decided to do what Mr Perry did (and what Dickens himself did when he performed his stories): I abridged it.

Me: What was your overall approach?

J: I kept all the dialogue, but streamlined the description. Thanks to movies, readers already have a picture of what Victorian London looked like. Dickens would have been a terrific screenwriter. He moved the story forward with no digressions.

Me: Speaking of films, do you have a favourite adaptation of A Christmas Carol?

J: Hmm, it has to be one of the black-and-white films—probably the 1951 version, with Alastair Sim. [Note: This was released as Scrooge in the UK.]

Me: And any favourite Dickens quotes?

J: Yes, but from Bleak House, not A Christmas Carol: “Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day.”

Me: What is it do you think about Dickens, and A Christmas Carol in particular, that continues to resonate with readers, listeners and viewers today?

J: I think we all want to believe that there’s no evil in the world—only damaged people who can be healed. And if there is evil, we want to believe in a magical cure. That’s what A Christmas Carol offers.

Me: Thank you, Jesse, and merry Christmas!

If you’re interested in learning more about Jesse’s project, then check out his website. And if you have any ideas/requests/suggestions for content from the Secret Victorianist in 2020, let me know—here, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

I’ll be updating you on my publication journey here on my blog, but check out my author website to read early praise for Bronte’s Mistress and, if you want to receive news straight to your inbox, sign up for my email newsletter below.

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