I read it every December. The library owns a ratty old copy, a broken binding, a lousy font. The lines sit too close together. People like me with a propensity towards double vision struggle not to jump around—reread the last line, skip to the next. Even though I know I’ll read it, since I always read it, finding myself with it at checkout always seems like a happy accident. Being Christmas, the staff display it on a large, clear plastic shelf that inserts into the end of the aisle. Such a tiny book, it seems lonely, lost with so much empty space on the shelf. I feel like I’m rescuing the forlorn thing. I bring it home for some attention, some care.
I don’t love the whole story, just the first and last staves—that’s the term used for the five chapters of the book—Marley’s ghost, Scrooge’s redemption. Beautiful writing. The book reminds me of a fine summer day. A stunning sunrise, a jaw-dropping sunset with nondescript sunshine in between. Not unpleasant, that middle part, but not awe inspiring either.
I didn’t read it this year. I never saw it on its shelf, I never looked. I asked my family for a copy of my own. “Before you buy it, check to see if it has a decent font.” This request surprises no one. Typical Jeff, something unique to obsess over. Susan bought two copies. The best interiors she could find, giving me an option to trade out if I’m unhappy with my choice.
I’ve cleared my plate. I’ve finished the other book I received for Christmas. A disappointing Vonnegut memoir—his last project—that offered nothing but proof it’s possible for a genius to out last his welcome. My two copies of A Christmas Carol sit beside me now, waiting for me to choose. One guaranteed to be read annually until the pages fall out, the other will make a fine gift for someone next year.