[Written the day after having been one of the performers to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to an audience of several hundred.]
[First, the reader surrenders to text; then the audience
surrenders to the reader’s surrender.
Being a ham helps: Dickens’ text is highly developed
melodrama, written when that form of expression
was probably at the height of its development.
Nowhere is Dickens’ involvement in his action more
evident than in his confession that he wept as he
wrote the death of Little Nell.]
Reading the first few words out to the darkened audience,
words lying on the inert white rectangle of the page,
words that assume an urgency while the reader
contemplates climbing the mountain that awaits.
The text lies on the page, not to be conquered,
but to be revived, to speak, breathe, fear, love.
The reader speaks: words drag reluctant from the page;
attempt drunkenly to stand, spouting gibberish.
Walls, streets, wooden tables, windows come slowly
to existence in the room between reader and listener.
Fuzzy pixels resolve into tinderboxes, cutlery, dark
briar pipes, shoes, buckled boots, muddy skirt hems,
gloves, bonnets, widebrimmed felt hats, spectacles;
vague gray air resolves into mist and smoke from
coal fires; blurs resolve into faces, puppets become people;
gibberish becomes words and meaning; the listeners relax
and sense becomes action as Scrooge begins his journey.