Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 16, 2016

Atria Books: The Silence in Her Eyes by Armando Lucas Correa

Labyrinth Road: Plan A by Deb Caletti

Harper Muse: Unsinkable by Jenni L. Walsh

Mariner Books: Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

S&s/ Marysue Rucci Books: The Storm We Made by Vanessa Chan

W by Wattpad Books: Night Shift by Annie Crown

Shadow Mountain: Under the Java Moon: A Novel of World War II by Heather B. Moore

Quotation of the Day

Secret Sauce? Bookstore 'Answers Only to Its Community'

"This is a happy story, not just for Billings, but also for brick-and-mortar bookstores in general. In the wake of the Amazon and e-book revolutions, people have begun seeking a more personal experience, a trend that is reshaping the marketplace. The secret sauce is a bookstore that answers only to its community. It refreshes the human spirit in a fundamental way. This House of Books is that kind of gift, from the people to the people."

--Author Carrie La Seur, in a piece she wrote for High Country News about the importance of indies, and the co-op bookstore model now in place at This House of Books in Billings, Mont.

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez


James Patterson Distributes Bookseller Bonuses

As part of his Holiday Bookstore Bonus Program, James Patterson will distribute grants totaling $250,000 to 149 independent booksellers this year. The program, which awards individual booksellers amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, is handled in conjunction with the American Booksellers Association. A complete list of recipients is available at

Patterson personally selected the winners from booksellers who were nominated by store owners, managers, fellow booksellers, publishing professionals and shoppers. Bookselling This Week reported that "nominated booksellers were praised for their contagious enthusiasm, knowledge across all genres, innovation, and, most importantly, dedication to books and reading."

"I loved hearing about the passion these grant recipients have for the work they're doing--each is committed to handselling and carefully curating book recommendations for each person that walks through their doors," said Patterson. "The attention these employees give to their customers is intrinsic to keeping them interested in reading. Booksellers can really make a difference in people's lives, and I'm glad to be able to acknowledge their contributions in some way."

ABA CEO Oren Teicher commented: "With his 2016 bonus program, James Patterson has again demonstrated his unwavering support for literacy and the independent booksellers who are dedicated to spreading the joy of reading. We are immensely grateful for his generosity, which provides extra financial support for 149 deserving booksellers during this holiday season."


The Houston Chronicle showcased three city booksellers who were among the recipients: Cathy Berner at Blue Willow Bookshop, Annalia Luna at Brazos Bookstore and John Kwiatkowski at Murder by the Book.

"It's a delightful thing for him to do," said Berner, Blue Willow's children's specialist and event coordinator. "And it's generous for him to honor the work that booksellers and librarians are doing every day across the country."

Murder by the Book owner McKenna Jordan noted that as the store's event coordinator, Kwiatkowski is doing the work that makes independent bookstores special: "Every customer who comes in the door, he greets and knows and tries to recommend a book to."

Berner commented: "Any place that sells print materials, you can find a James Patterson book. And the fact that he recognizes the important role that independent bookstores and libraries play in the fabric of our society really means a lot."

Britannica Books: Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures--About Earth, Space, Animals, the Body, Technology & More--Revealed in Pictures by Valentina D'Efilippo, Andrew Pettie, and Conrad Quilty-Harper

Charis Books & More Relocating to Decatur

Feminist bookstore Charis Books & More is relocating from Little Five Points in Atlanta, where it has been a fixture for 42 years, to a Victorian-style house across from the Agnes Scott College campus at 184 South Candler Road in Decatur, Atlanta INtown reported.

Elizabeth Anderson, executive director of the bookstore's nonprofit arm Charis Circle, said the home is larger than the bookshop's current space, with room for daytime events, reading groups and social gatherings. This will allow Charis to expand the scope of its current program offerings. The house will be updated to be fully ADA accessible, has a back yard, a large, free parking lot, additional accessible parking spots and has closer access to MARTA trains and bus service.

"We will continue to be the Charis Books and Charis Circle you know and love: we will continue to be a home for independent and marginalized voices, and a popular education center for intersectional feminist justice," she added. "We are working with an architect to make the space both functional and beautiful; a feminist gathering ground where we can plan and dream, celebrate and scheme, for the long haul."

Charis Circle will be raising funds to help with the move and renovations to the new space, Atlanta INtown wrote.

GLOW: Carolrhoda Books: Pangu's Shadow by Karen Bao

Amazon Takes Flight with Beta U.K. Drone Deliveries

Amazon has begun a limited trial using drones to deliver packages to customers in the U.K. The Bookseller reported that a YouTube video released earlier this week announced the launch of the online retailer's Prime Air service in Cambridge, "which involves the use of drones to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less." According to the video's narrator, "We've started a new private trial in the Cambridge area of England, and on 7th December, we completed our first delivery."

After the fulfillment center receives the order, "an electrically-powered drone that can fly at heights of up to 400 feet and carry packages up to 5 lbs. is then guided by GPS through the air," the Bookseller noted, adding that during the "beta test Prime Air will be offered to 'dozens' of customers living within several miles of the facility. Amazon will then use the data it gathers from the trial to expand the service to more customers over time."

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos tweeted: "First-ever Amazon Prime Air customer delivery is in the books. 13 min--click to delivery."

Soho Crime: My Favorite Scar by Nicolás Ferraro, translated by Mallory Craig-Kuhn

Obituary Notes: A.A. Gill; Fred Kobrak

British food critic, author and newspaper columnist A.A. Gill, described by his publisher, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, as "one of the finest writers of our time," died December 10, the Bookseller reported. He was 62. His memoir Pour Me a Life (2015) was shortlisted for the 2016 PEN Ackerley Prize. His travel writings were published in several books, including A.A. Gill Is Away, Previous Convictions and A.A. Gill Is Further Away. Gill also wrote the essay collections The Angry Island and The Golden Door, as well as the novels Sap Rising and Starcrossed. Lines in the Sand, a collection of his articles from the past five years, is scheduled to be released by W&N in February.

Alan Samson, Gill's publisher at W&N, said: "Only A.A. Gill himself could find the words to do himself justice. He was (of course) one of the finest writers of our time--witty, insightful, wide-ranging in his interests, profoundly curious, and as anyone who has read his great articles on the migration tragedy will recognize, one with a fiercely moral compass too. There is a singularity and a genius in his writing.... But beyond that, by which I mean above that, Adrian was a wise, kind and brilliant companion, a one-person Algonquin Club that his wonderful editor Celia Hayley and I are eternally grateful to have been members of for the past dozen years."


Fred Kobrak, longtime international book sales executive, died on December 12. He was 88.

Kobrak worked at Macmillan for 35 years, first in international sales and eventually as the president of Collier Macmillan International in London. After retiring, he was a consultant to Thomson for 10 years and continued to attend trade shows and meetings of the International Publishers Association.

For a touching remembrance of Fred Kobrak, read this piece by Hannah Johnson, publisher of Publishing Perspectives, who recalls her friendship with a man whose stories about the business made book publishing "a noble and glamorous enterprise."


Image of the Day: Ingram Celebrates New Offices in NYC

On Tuesday, Ingram Content Group hosted many clients and friends to celebrate the opening of its new, 9,800-square-foot offices near Bryant Park in New York City, with space for staff from Perseus's distribution businesses that Ingram bought earlier this year. Pictured: Ingram associates cut the ribbon on the new space: (l.-r.) Edison Garcia, Kelly Gallagher, Michael Rentas, Diana Ribeiro, Sabrina McCarthy and Zoya Khera.

Bookstore Chalkboard of the Day: The Vero Beach Book Center

From the Facebook page of the Vero Beach Book Center, Vero Beach, Fla., yesterday:

"It's only 9 days until Christmas! Still need a last minute gift? Books are always a good idea!"

Denzel Washington Visits His Childhood Librarian

While visiting Atlanta, Ga., recently to promote his new film, Fences, Denzel Washington "reconnected with a very special figure from his past" when he visited an assisted living community in Marietta to wish Miss Connie, his childhood librarian, a happy 99th birthday, People magazine reported. Although they had not seen each other in nearly 50 years, the retired librarian "never forgot the day Washington, around seven years old at the time, came to the children's department of the Mount Vernon public library to ask for a book."

After learning of a video that friends at Miss Connie's assisted living community had posted on YouTube featuring her discussing memories of Washington, he called her and said he had never stopped reading. They made plans to meet when he was in town.

Brooke Munson, executive director of Atria Senior Living, said Washington "spent quite a bit of time with us. He came in and gave Miss Connie a kiss on the cheek. They held hands and he was even kind enough to get his mother on the phone so she could chat with us for a few minutes."

Another staff member said Washington told them: "You don't know where the road is going to take you, and who you're going to meet that will have an impact on your life. This lady had an incredible impact on my life, and now here I am."

Personnel Changes at Scholastic

At Scholastic:

Alexandra Wladich has been promoted to associate director, corporate communications, overseeing Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge and the Kids & Family Reading Report. She was previously communications manager.

Stephanie Peitz has been promoted to manager, cross channel marketing, Scholastic Trade. She was previously associate marketing manager.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Daily Show's Trevor Noah on Fresh Air

Fresh Air repeat: Trevor Noah, author of Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Spiegel & Grau, $28, 9780399588174).

TV: Today Will Be Different; Basket Case

Julia Roberts will star in in a limited series based on Maria Semple's Today Will Be Different, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which added that Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures has scooped up the film rights to the book and will produce the project. Semple, who has worked as a writer and producer on TV series including Suddenly Susan and Arrested Development, is writing the adaptation. Roberts is producing the series through her Red Om Films company with Semple, Ellison and Sue Naegle serving as executive producers.

"I'm giddy that Eleanor Flood will be brought to life by Julia Roberts and am elated to collaborate with Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle and the team at Annapurna on this endeavor. This will be a fun ride!" said Semple.


Fox has given "a script commitment plus penalty" to Basket Case, an hour-long drama based on Carl Hiaasen's 2002 novel that will be written by White Collar and Graceland creator Jeff Eastin, Deadline reported. Eastin, Jason Winer (Life in Pieces) and Hiaasen are executive producing. 20th Century Fox TV is the studio.

Books & Authors

Awards: Jane Yolen Mid-List Author

The winner of this year's Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award, sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, is Jan Peck, author of The Green Mother Goose (Sterling, 2010) and Giant Peach Yodel (Pelican Publishing, 2012). The grant, which gives $3,000 to mid-list authors to honor their contribution and help raise awareness about their current works-in-progress, was created and is funded by Yolen, a critically-acclaimed children's book author and one of the first SCBWI members. Two Honor winners were also chosen: Deborah Trotter and Joan Donaldson.

"All of the submissions this year were top rate, and the stories of how these authors--many of them award-winners--who have all had some recent setbacks serves as a warning to all writers," Yolen said. "We are at the whim of trends, changes in publishers, consolidation of publishing lists, cutbacks in educational spending and the development of newer ways of storytelling. These three winners are all really good at what they do. My one wish is that this small award will be a way of re-starting their book lives again. Selfish of me, really, I want to read more from each of them. They each have many more books, stories, poems inside that need to be seen by the reading public."

Reading with... Jill A. Tardiff

Jill A. Tardiff is the manager and buyer at Lucy's Whey Artisanal Cheese at Chelsea Market in New York City. She is a member of the American Cheese Society and serves on its member services committee. Tardiff is the National Reading Group Month chair for the Women's National Book Association (WNBA), and serves as WNBA's NGO main representative at the United Nations Department of Public Information. An active WNBA member since 1996, Tardiff was New York City chapter president (2000-2006) and national president (2004-2006). She is affiliated with Culinary Historians of New York, Food Tank and Slow Food NYC. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

On your nightstand now:

I manage two stacks. On my nightstand: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey. I enjoyed Ivey's debut, The Snow Child, which was a Great Group Reads 2012 Selection. The interweaving of local mythologies with reality is the hook.

Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel. I am a real Murakami fan, as you will see.

Just Kids and M Train, both by Patti Smith. Courageous, compelling.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith. Newest addition.

Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears by Pema Chödrön, whose work is always on my nightstand. Challenging--smack in the moment. I highly recommend the audio editions.

A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams by Michael Pollan. Tripped across this little-known Pollan title as I was preparing for a spring 2016 conference on sustainable development.

On my day-table: Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel. Frenkel's autobiographical approach to a complex subject includes discussion of the visual arts and music with formulas and illustrations that break down the math angst.

Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. There is always at least one cheese title on my day-table. This go-to reference for cheese enthusiasts and professionals alike is a must. And I am looking forward to The Oxford Companion to Cheese, edited by Catherine Donnelly, with foreword by Mateo Kehler. I have many friends and colleagues who have contributed to this book.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. Gripped by the intrigues so deftly accounted by Robert Graves in I, Claudius, I have been a student of the Roman Empire for some time.

The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane and The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe by Michael Pye. Planning my in-the-near-future adventure to Scotland and the Orkney Islands.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Adventures of Puss-in-Boots, Jr., Further Adventures of Puss-in-Boots, Jr., and Puss-in-Boots, Jr. in Fairyland by American poet David Cory. I met my paternal grandmother only once. I was four, maybe five, years old. I spent most of the time hiding under her kitchen table, but at the end of the visit--and as my father and mother and I were ready to leave--she handed me these three books, along with a copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne.

Also, Silver Birch by Dorothy Lyons, from the Connie McGuire series set in America's Great Depression era. Synopsis: girl befriends abused then abandoned Arabian mare. The ultimate for any young girl in love with horses.

Your top five authors:

Haruki Murakami, especially The Wind-Up Bird, South of the Border, West of the Sun and Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche; Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse and The Waves; Reynolds Price, Kate Vaiden; Nina Berberova, The Tattered Cloak and Other Stories; Toni Morrison, Beloved.

Book you have faked reading:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I have tried (really tried) to read--and finish--this book. I just can't get past the 100-plus pages on wheat production in Czarist Russia.

Book you are an evangelist for:

De Profundis and Other Prison Writings by Oscar Wilde, edited by Colm Tóibín. Beyond wit and wisdom, these writings are in a different realm altogether. I had to put the book down at times to simply catch breath and contemplate what I had just read. If you enjoy Wilde as writer, then get to know Wilde as person through this collection.

Book you have bought for the cover:

Excluding art books? Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson. And A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.

Book you hid from your parents:

The obvious one--Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Borrowed from the local library. Bless the person at the checkout desk. And The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Catch the passage between main characters Howard Roark and Dominique Francon, which involves an emerald necklace. Very racy.

Book that changed your life:

Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy by Susan Neiman. Read at a point in my life when coming to terms with evil within a philosophical construct was important.

Favorite line from a book:

"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes." Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Watson, The Hound of the Baskervilles, as quoted by Christopher John Francis Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Five books you will never part with:

Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game) by Hermann Hesse, translated by Richard and Clara Winston. I still have the edition I purchased in 1970; I make a habit of reading it at the start of each new decade.

Moments of Rising Mist: A Collection of Sung Landscape Poetry compiled and translated by Amitendranath Tagore. First book purchased as an adult, first book of poetry. Probably the book that has had the greatest influence on my own perception of nature, expression and perception of beauty.

PK in the Terrarium: A Life in Books by Paul Kozlowski, edited by Martin Kozlowski. Holds a very special place.

The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture by William Irwin Thompson. Lots of William Blake.

The Silent Traveller in Japan, written and illustrated by Chiang Yee. A gift from a favorite college professor as a reciprocal token for a painting I did for her.

Book you want to read again for the first time:

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. My first reading was that of the Seidensticker translation, but with each new translation (and there are many), it is like reading the story fresh--a point of discovery in every chapter. So influenced I named my publishing consultancy after one of the book's chapters, Bamboo River, which I might add has been very helpful towards breaking the ice to formal business introductions in Japan.

Your favorite genres:

I love the tradition of illustrated fiction in publishing. My favorite writer who falls into this category is the late John Gardner, original hardcover editions like Mickelsson's Ghosts and October Light.

I enjoy reading in pairs, like Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre with Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea; or The Little Red Chairs and Country Girl: A Memoir, both by Edna O'Brien; or Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney and Grendel by John Gardner.

I am hooked on serial mystery/adventure/science fiction/fantasy, such as Aimee Leduc Investigation by Cara Black, Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon--and, yes, Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Book Review

Review: Who Killed Piet Barol?

Who Killed Piet Barol? by Richard Mason (Knopf, $27.95 hardcover, 384p., 9780385352888, January 24, 2017)

Luck has a way of following Piet Barol wherever he goes--until now. The debonair young libertine introduced in History of a Pleasure Seeker has reinvented himself as the French Vicomte Pierre de Barol, a skilled furniture maker in South Africa, where no one knows of his Amsterdam past. Having aged several years, he is softer in the middle and his wife, Stacey, has curbed his dalliances. But the couple's happy-ever-after is running out.

Their furniture company is on the edge of financial ruin, due in large part to Piet's sanguine unwillingness to collect on outstanding bills from wealthy and influential parties. Instead, husband and wife devise a gambit to furnish the home of the insufferable Johannesburg aristocrat Percy Shabrill--for a hefty down payment and at no cost to themselves. In a small coup, Piet befriends two of Percy's Native servants, Luvo and Ntsina, who lead him deep into Bantu land in search of free wood.

Richard Mason, who was born in South Africa and sponsors education scholarships in Cape Town, sets his second Piet Barol novel in 1914, with the previous year's Natives Land Act in full force, a significant piece of Apartheid legislation fueling prejudice among the country's inhabitants. His prose is as amiable and elegant as ever, but readers eager for newly salacious escapades may wish to brace themselves for a weightier variety of provocativeness. Although noble Piet considers the overt racism of his peers distasteful, Mason is frank about his hero's racial biases and thoughtlessness as well: "Piet's total unconcern with domestic duties, his unquestioned sense that it was Ntsina and Luvo who should lay the fires and skin the animals, that he was going beyond the call of duty simply by carrying his own pack."

The three press into the woods until they reach Ntsina's Xhosa village. The people there rejoice upon the young man's return--all save for his father, Sukude, who has been contriving a wicked plan to rape his son's betrothed. The stakes continue to climb as high as the ancient mahoganies as Piet schemes to snatch trees sacred to the Xhosa people. His presence exacerbates bitter rivalries within the village, and the European encroachment on Bantu livelihood that follows him corrodes more than just the forest's integrity.

For a novel in which Piet's mortality barely comes into question, Who Killed Piet Barol? reads as a hokey and misleading title. Nevertheless, the story is a mature addition to the charming Dutchman's adventures. Mason writes with a keen, unflinching style and indicts white supremacy as the pervasive malady it is. Readers need not have read History to enter the lush groves of Piet Barol, although they'll find footnotes referencing the author's auxiliary work. Piet's fortunes may take many unexpected turns, but readers in Mason's hands can rest assured that they'll experience more than one stroke of good luck. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: Richard Mason's pleasure seeker makes a desperate attempt to save his South African furniture business with a gambit that could destroy what a Xhosa village holds sacred.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Christmas Carol--The Book... 'to Begin With'

Marley was dead: to begin with.

It is one of my favorite opening lines in literature, though I hadn't read the classic holiday season tale by Charles Dickens in years, perhaps decades. Recently, however, I was inspired to revisit his world by 1) the publication last month of the fascinating A Christmas Carol: The Original Manuscript Edition (Norton), with a foreword by Colm Tóibín; and 2) a visit to the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan last week, where the treasure itself--the one-of-a-kind manuscript--is displayed every year in Pierpont Morgan's paradisiacal library.

I'll admit, however, that my bookseller's soul was also touched (perhaps just a little Scrooge-like) when I learned about the Dickensian path this unique document took to reach its hallowed place under glass, near a monumental fireplace tastefully decorated with green garland and red ribbon. In his introduction to the new facsimile edition, Declan Kiely chronicles the book's journey to its recent meeting with me (well, not quite that detailed) as I sat for a long time on a cushioned bench, communing (not too strong a word, as it turned out) with an open book, its legacy and its ghosts.

After the printers had done their work in 1843, Dickens arranged for the loose manuscript pages to be bound in red morocco as a gift for his solicitor, friend and creditor Thomas Mitton. Five years after the author's death, in 1875, Mitton sold the manuscript for £50 (about $62) to Francis Harvey, a London bookseller who quickly found an eager buyer in Henry George Churchill, a private collector. Churchill decided to sell it in 1882 to a bookseller in Birmingham, where "crowds reportedly gathered there for an opportunity to view the manuscript before it was sold for £200 to the London booksellers Robson and Kerslake," Kiely writes. Soon after, Stuart M. Samuel purchased it for £300 as an investment, then he sold it in 1890 to London booksellers J. Pearson & Co. for £1,000. 

And now the retail plot reaches its final chapter. Sometime before 1900, Pierpont Morgan acquired the manuscript from Pearson. After his death in 1913, he bequeathed it to J.P. Morgan Jr., who subsequently established the Morgan Library in his father's honor.

On December 12, 1923, the New York Times reported: "Among the various kinds of riches in the Morgan Library on East Thirty-sixth Street, there is, kept very carefully, a particular treasure. It is not very old and it is not at all beautiful, but it is a very significant possession, for which its owner paid a high price, and on which he sets a high value. It is written in a well-known, scratchy hand--on sheets of yellowing paper, the manuscript of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol....

"Mr. Morgan's original manuscript is, of course, a well-nigh priceless treasure. And it is so less because it is the writing of a great work by a great novelist than because it is, in its genuineness and its intimacy, something that for nearly three-quarters of a century has been part of the thought of Christmas cheer, and that throughout the English-speaking world men and women and little children have loved."

As I communed in the library, I thought about this book as both a singular art object as well as the original container for a story that has been told worldwide for nearly two centuries, spawning myriad editions, illustrations and film/TV/stage adaptations. A Christmas Carol is a fundamental tale we share again and again, hoping to learn something new, or at least to remind ourselves of an important lesson about being human that seemed so obvious when we were children.

We... tend to forget.

The Morgan displays its bound manuscript open to just a single page. This year it is the end of Stave I. After his frightening encounter with Jacob Marley's ghost and the promise of more terrors to come, Scrooge watches the specter float away to join "the mournful dirge" outside. (Apparently "dirge" was not a frightening enough word for Dickens. You can see his insertion of the adjective "mournful" on the page.) Scrooge looks out of his bedroom window and sees:

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley's Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

When the vision ceases, Scrooge attempts to say 'Humbug!' but stops at the first syllable. His redemptive journey has begun.

In a foreword to the facsimile edition, Colm Tóibín observes: "The word dream has been transformed, has been taken from its dark, cold, lonely, fearful place and, instead of being a watchword for frightful imaginings, filled with mockery and unbearable visions, has come to mean an opening of the self, a way of reimagining the world. And so, with that change, from nightmare to sweet reality, from miserliness to giving, from misery to merriness, Christmas came into being. Courtesy of Dickens, we live in its shadow still and on one cheery, idealized day of the year, as we force Scrooge to appear as merely a distant warning to us all, we become the happy, jolly Cratchits."

'Tis that season: to begin with.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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