N.B.I have been wracked by flu pain (& I’m not the only Pitiful Bastard sufferin’ through this right now) so I have no doubt that I’m makin’ even less sense than usual in this spot… Oh well, sickness has been a big part of my holiday season for most of my 29 years (although less so since they yanked out my tonsils and gave me a morphine chaser in 1997) and I guess you could say these germs qualify as “faithful friends who are dear to” me… I suppose I should be thankful that they’ve come early this year (presumably, I’ll be back in the pink in time for my 11th annual It’s A Wonderful Life party on Saturday), but still, to paraphrase the young Bulgarian woman (played by Jack Warner’s niece!) in Casablanca, I feel as if the “Devil has got me by the throat”…
A Quick Announcement: Go take a look at what “H” is doing with the All-Star Squadron over at the The Comic Treadmill–it bids fair to be glorious!
Okay! Now it’s time to introduce everyone to Edward Wagenknecht, an obscure figure, to be sure, but a man well worth knowing, if you like old-school anthologies. The sheer range of his interest was staggering. Take a look at this (partial) bibliography:
Abraham Licnoln: His Life, Work and Character (1949)
Cavalcade of the American Novel (1954)
Cavalcade of the English Novel (1943)
(edited) The Stories and Fables of Ambrose Bierce; Illus. Ferebe Streett (1977)
Daughters of the Covenant: Portraits of Six Jewish Women (1983)
Eve and Henry James: Portraits of Women and Girls in His Fiction (1978)
A Guide to Bernard Shaw(1929)
Henry David Thoreau: What Manner of Man (1981)
Lillian Gish, An Interpretation (1927)
The Man Charles Dickens, A Victorian Portrait (1929)
The Personality of Milton (1970)
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Portrait of a Balanced Soul (1974)
Six Novels of the Supernatural (1944)
and, of course,
The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories (I found a much better link!). So! Who do you think is more cultured–Wagenknecht or Bill Clinton?
I found this amazing anthology at a junk store called Ye Auld Curiosity Shoppe in 1993, and it’s been a big part of every Christmas since. It’s divided up into 4 sections–
1) The religious legacy, kicked off by the Gospel of Luke.
2) The modern ascendancy of the Santa Claus legend, held together by a wonderful piece by Gamaliel Bradford called “Santa Claus: A Psychograph”, which argues that the myth of St. Nick is a bridge across the generations that both sides are very much complicit in maintaining, and that this “as if” philosophy can lead to even greater leaps of love (such as the one which clears the subject/object divide?)
3)Christmas in England–characterized, in the main, by tales of supernatural visitation. This brings me to an important point–I’m much more interested in the ghost story tradition than the “family X-Mas” tradition that dominates section
4)Christmas in America.
So! Seasonal Ghost stories! A Christmas Carol is the best of them (and Wagenknecht includes a shorter version that Dickens wrote as a text for his performances in the 1850s & 1860s, I believe), but I’ll spotlight that one later in the month (has anyone noticed AC Douglas’s Carol-inspired discussion of the future of the e-book?–I actually agree with the man on this one–although I hope that these new “multi-book viewers” AC describes will come equipped with a nice must-scented incense burner… I know it’s a cliche, but I love the way old books–and comics!–smell…) There’s no doubt in my mind that the second-greatest X-Mas tale ever written is Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, which is basically the tale of a woman stuck permanently in the alienated state that Scrooge gets a taste of when he follows his visitors’ leads into the cracks between subject and object–and the Governess doesn’t get any friendly ghosts to help her make it through the ordeal, she gets Quint and Jessel, who are as silent as the grave, or the Ghost of Christmas Future…
Wagnenknecht’s third section is loaded with extraordinary items of this type. We get an interpolated tale from The Pickwick Papers called “The Goblins Who Stole A Sexton” (and the splendid Dingley Dell Christmas that provides the occasion for the telling of this gruesome story); Marjorie Bowen’s “The Prescription”, a creepy tale of temporal instability in the tradition of Robert Nathan’s (and William Dieterle’s extraordinarily good film) Portrait of Jennie; and E. F. Bozeman’s “The White Road”, a bizarre tale about the incommunicability of experience…
God Damn I feel awful!
Perhaps it’s time for bed…
I’ll be back for more tomorrow though!
Good night friends