I don’t reread books very often, especially not in the same year. Yet, this week I’ve been pulled back into reading Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story (essays taken from the also great In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash).
This is the first time I can remember where I don’t know if the book or movie is better. They both compliment each other. While reading the book, I think of the movie. While watching the movie, I think of the book. Below is a condensed reading of the book from Jean Shepherd on his radio show.
Favorite passages from the book:
Preparing to go to school was about like getting ready for extended Deep-Sea Diving. Longjohns, corduroy knickers, checkered flannel Lumberjack shirt, four sweaters, fleece-lined leatherette sheepskin coat, helmet, goggles, mittens with leatherette gauntlets and a large red star with an Indian Chief’s face in the middle, three pair of sox, high-tops, overshoes, and a sixteen-foot scarf wound spirally from left to right until only the faint glint of two eyes peering out of a mound of moving clothing told you that a kid was in the neighborhood.
There was no question of staying home. It never entered anyone’s mind. It was a hardier time, and Miss Bodkin was a hardier teacher than the present breed. Cold was something that was accepted, like air, clouds, and parents; a fact of Nature, and as such could not be used in any fraudulent scheme to stay out of school.
My mother would simply throw her shoulder against the front door, pushing back the advancing drifts and stone ice, the wind raking the living-room rug with angry fury for an instant, and we would be launched, one after the other, my brother and I, like astronauts into unfriendly Arctic space. The door clanged shut behind us and that was it. It was make school or die!
I was well into my twenties before I finally gave up on the Easter bunny, and I am not convinced that I am the richer for it. Even now there are times when I’m not so sure about the stork.
Our family always had its Christmas on Christmas Eve. Other less fortunate people, I had heard, opened their presents in the chill clammy light of dawn. Far more civilized, our Santa Claus recognized that barbaric practice for what it was.
But I had sworn! Terribly! Obscenely! In our house kids didn’t swear. The things I called Dill I’m sure my mother had not even heard. And I had only heard once or twice, coming out of an alley. I had woven a tapestry of obscenity that as far as I know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan. And my mother had heard!
My mother then covered the ham with water, pushed it onto the big burner and turned up the gas until it boiled. It just sat there on the stove and bubbled away for maybe two hours, filling the house with a smell that was so luscious, so powerful as to have erotic overtones. The old man paced back and forth, occasionally lifting the lid and prodding the ham with a fork, inhaling deeply. The ham frenzy was upon him.