by Jean Shepherd
Reading level: A
Book type: short stories
The holiday film A Christmas Story, first released in 1983, has become a bona fide Christmas perennial, gaining in stature and fame with each succeeding year. Its affectionate, wacky, and wryly realistic portrayal of an American family’s typical Christmas joys and travails in small-town Depression-era Indiana has entered our imagination and our hearts with a force equal to It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.
This edition of A Christmas Story gathers together in one hilarious volume the gems of autobiographical humor that Jean Shepherd drew upon to create this enduring film. Here is young Ralphie Parker’s shocking discovery that his decoder ring is really a device to promote Ovaltine; his mother and father’s pitched battle over the fate of a lascivious leg lamp; the unleashed and unnerving savagery of Ralphie’s duel in the show with the odious bullies Scut Farkas and Grover Dill; and, most crucially, Ralphie’s unstoppable campaign to get Santa—or anyone else—to give him a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. Who cares that the whole adult world is telling him, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”?
The pieces that comprise A Christmas Story, previously published in the larger collections In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, coalesce in a magical fashion to become an irresistible piece of Americana, quite the equal of the film in its ability to warm the heart and tickle the funny bone.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I don't tend to read a lot of holiday-themed books. Even if I do, I usually end up reading them months away from the relevant holiday. I bought A Christmas Story last year when I found it for a good price, decided I would read it before Christmas rolled around again, and promptly forgot about it. I remembered I had it in my TBR pile just in time!
A Christmas Story is one of my favourite Christmas movies, so I was really curious to read the book. Although the book is comprised of five unrelated short stories, it manages to cover most of the major events in the film. I can't say that I was really surprised by anything in the book (other than the fact that, originally, the Bumpus hounds stole an Easter ham instead of a Christmas turkey); certain parts of the book were taken almost verbatim and put into the film.
While the stories are amusing, they seem a bit dry in comparison to the magic of the film version. I also wasn't crazy about the writing. The stories are told in an autobiographical fashion, with the narrator reminiscing about childhood events. However, the tenses were constantly switching between past and present tense (sometimes in the middle of a paragraph) and that grated on my nerves.
If you've seen the movie, you won't get much more out of reading the book. If you haven't seen the movie... where have you been every Christmas since 1983?
Overall: 3.4 out of 5