Holiday Review: Re-Read Time – A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

a christmas story

My husband and I will be with family this Christmas and I might not be able to post my regular re-read review of A Christmas Story so I’m pre-posting it a few days early to show up on Christmas day.  Don’t worry; I will definitely spend some time with Shepherd during breaks from presents, food and family.

Merry Christmas to all!!

 

I love Christmas.  The gifts, the food and spending time with family.  One thing I look forward to each year is watching “A Christmas Story” – usually multiple times to the annoyance of said family.

In this year’s stocking, my husband gave me a copy to read.  So, on Christmas day, I spent a few hours with Jean Shepherd and his family.

Mr. Shepherd wrote several essays about his life in lower middle class America.  These essays were compiled and created the screenplay for the movie.  While the movie actually follows the stories closely, the stories are not all set around one Christmas and there were some changes.  It was heartfelt, funny and just what I wanted on Christmas day.

The first story, Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid, shares his memory of the Christmas he longed to receive a Red Ryder BB Gun from Santa along with all the subtle hints he gave his parents.  Of course, he received the classic block: “You’ll shoot out one of your eyes.”  His dad, however, came through and made sure he got his gun Christmas morning.  He proceeded to almost shoot his eye out but somehow got away with it.  Even if I had never seen the movie, I would have laughed out loud while reading this story.  It perfectly captures the feelings of childhood.  Wanting something so badly and feeling like you are being thwarted around every turn.  And just when you think all is lost, your mom or dad saves the day.

Story two, The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again, tells us about the secret decoder he finally got in the mail to use during the Little Orphan Annie Radio broadcasts.  “Drink Your Ovaltine” – a crummy commercial.  This may have been his first realization that nothing is free and the real world is just looking to sell you something.

My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art – Ahhh…the infamous leg lamp.  So sexy, so inappropriate.  Yes, his mom broke it on purpose.  Who can blame her?

Grover Dill and The Tasmanian Devil – finally our protagonist takes out his tormentor (Grover Dill in the written story) in a flurry of fists and obscenities.  My favorite part of this story is the detail about his mom really protecting him so that his dad wouldn’t punish him for the fight.  He literally vomits in relief and, I will admit, it almost brought a tear to my eye.  Who didn’t have one of these moments in childhood?

The final story, The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds, gives much more information about the redneck neighbors and their dogs that terrorized the neighborhood.  The dogs break in the back door and steal the Easter ham from the table.  This scene (stealing the Christmas turkey) in the movie always made me chuckle.  But, while reading, I had a much more serious feeling.  These were not rich people.  They had saved and scrimped to have a nice Easter.  The entire family looked forward to a few special meals a year and this was one of them.  To have the ham taken away was horrible.  And, the Bumpus family were awful neighbors on a day to day basis.  I sighed with relief when they moved out one night and the neighborhood was able to get back to normal.

Overall, this is a wonderful book about childhood and family with a little Christmas cheer thrown in.  I do believe I will make a re-read a Christmas day tradition.  5/5 stars.

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