Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Christmas Story: The Book That Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film (Jean Shepherd)

A Christmas Story: The Book That Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film
Jean Shepherd
Broadway Books
Fiction, Humor
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Little Ralphie's quest to obtain the perfect Christmas gift - a Red Ryder BB gun - in Depression-era Indiana became a holiday classic in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story. Before it was a movie, it was a series of humorous essays by Jean Shepherd, a roughly autobiographical account of a Midwestern childhood during the 1930's. This book, drawn from Shepherd's published collections, gathers the stories that were adapted into the movie, including everything from Ralphie's fateful encounter with a bully to the prolonged torment of being neighbors with the Bumpuses... and, of course, the infamous air rifle.

REVIEW: I've seen and enjoyed the movie a few times (though never to the level of worship or day-long marathons), so I thought this sounded interesting, a look at the stories behind the story. To be honest, I think the movie worked better. The essays have a similar sense of humor (which is to be expected, as Shepherd adapted the screenplay), but tend to ramble and dawdle and draw out events unnecessarily... sometimes ending without making a point. The final essay concerning the Bumpuses in particular seems to go on forever, with too little payoff. Granted, they evoke a vision of the place and era through the tinted lens of childhood, with some authentic moments about growing up that resonate across time, but reminiscing with relatives and friends is a whole different animal than doing so with strangers: the former are fine with tales that go nowhere, because it's about reliving the memory, while the latter eventually start wondering where it's all going. While there were some amusing moments here, and it was interesting to see the roots of the movie, all in all I prefer the more compact tale in the film.

You Might Also Enjoy:
A Christmas Story (1983) - Amazon DVD link

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