A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

December 2, 2016 Whitney Review 0 Comments

A Christmas Story by Jean ShepherdA Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd
Published by Broadway Books on October 27th 2010
Genres: Short Story
Source: Library

A beloved, bestselling classic of humorous and nostalgic Americana—the book that inspired the equally classic Yuletide film.

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.

I’ve seen the play, watched the movie, it was now time to read the book. I would never say that A Christmas Story was my favorite movie, that will always belong to It’s a Wonderful Life, but I have always loved the pop culture from this holiday movie that is referenced in daily conversation without relation to Christmas. Therefore, I decided to end my wicked ways of watching the movie and not reading the book this year.

Sadly, I was disappointed. All the elements were there but they were told in short stories, vignettes if you will and unfortunately did not feel connected. Perhaps it is because I have watched the film for so many years but Jean Sheperd’s stories didn’t hold the same magic and humor that is captured on screen.

However, the story of the leg lamp will forever remain a classic even on the page. The descriptions of Ralph’s mother’s disdain for said lamp I found to be very humorous and could clearly picture Mrs. Parker forming a plot to get rid of the erotic ornament as well as the Parker boys (and the neighbors) infatuation of the stocking knee. Also, Ralphie’s wish of a Red Ryder bb gun and the incessant You’ll shoot your eye out will forever remain a classic no matter what format and was by far the best story in the grouping. Although, in the film, one of my favorite scenes is the Bumpus’ dogs eating Christmas dinner (on a side note it is actually Thanksgiving). Alas, Jean Shepherd spent so much time describing the neighbor’s living conditions that by the time we reached the pinnacle scene I was over it and ready for the story to end which disappointed me to no end.

Upon closing this small book I realized that not only a double dare but a triple dog dare couldn’t get me to read A Christmas Story again. Instead, I will stick to the movie and will enjoy this Christmas cult classic visually.


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