In 1983, computers were just coming onto the scene and they were real exciting. I had a friend who had a Commodore 64 fresh out of the box. He was way more advanced than I was with it and somehow-I still to this day don't know how-he had an account on the fledgling UMass Amherst computer network then called "cyber-something-or-other." On UMass's servers, one could log on and chat with other people smart enough to have figured the whole thing out and that is just what we did. Sometimes we'd be chatting with other people for hours. I vaguely recall that some of the user names were things like "NCC-1701" or "The Klingon," perhaps attesting to the direct line of nerd-dom from Star Trek to computer literacy in the early days. Perhaps not.
Anyway, after a while people-I don't remember any names-put up electronic bulletin boards to post stuff...and, you guessed it, I posted this thing. I really don't know what it is but I remember the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. This past month, I 'googled' my name (C'mon, you know you do it too!) and was floored to find a small archive posted of things a former UMass cyber user had saved for decades. I took it from there and corrected the spelling of a teenage and am now posting it as is. Pretty cool.
Finally, what does this have to do with the survival of the book? I guess it shows how deeply ingrained a work of literature can become in a person as well as how books, whatever their technological faults, can reach us in ways that television, movies, computers, or even Kindles cannot.
Here it is:
“Twas the Night Before Christmas” read by Holden Caulfield (with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore and J.D. Salinger).
Oh hell, I hate this story, but I guess I'll tell it to you anyway. I'm in the right mood for it anyhow. Sometimes you gotta be in the right mood for this sappy story. I guess I am.
Well, here we go. “Twas the night before Christmas...” Twas? Is this guy serious? Twas? Obviously the people who wrote this didn't know how to spell. Maybe ‘cause they didn't have a good English teacher, or maybe just ‘cause they are British. British people can't spell anyhow.
“…when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that fat old St. Nick soon would be there.” Can I say something here about ‘Ol St. Nick? He's phony. Right down to his belly full of jelly. If he's so great, why does he want to get all that shit all over his suit? I'll tell you why! He's phony all the way through. (Although he does have great taste in the color hats to wear.)
Anyway, I wonder what ’Ol St. Nick's wife says about him traipsing across the countryside ‘til all hours of the morning. She probably doesn't like it! Then again, she is a moron anyway, living in the North Pole. Have you ever noticed that all the phonies and the morons end up together? Sorry, back to the goddamn story. "The children were all nestled..." Ha, ha, “nestled.” That killed me. “...while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. And Momma in her kerchief, and I in my cap had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.”
“When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up
the sash.” “Threw up the sash,” how stupid. That killed me though. I always wondered what it would be like if the line read “and I threw up on the sash.” Maybe that's what it really said and they had to censor it? Have I ever told you the time when I was so drunk, I could barely stand and then I puked? No? Good, I don't feel like telling you about it anyway. “Threw up on the sash,” that killed me.
“The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave a luster of midday to objects below.” Well, I don’t know about you but I sure am bored as hell by this story. Maybe what I'll do is skip the boring part and get to the toys. Aw, hell! I'll just finish the book. “When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. With a goddamn, fat rider so jolly and quick I knew in a minute it must be St. Nick.” Don't these people know by now? St. Nick is a phony. Some people won't realize things unless they are thrown at them. St. Nick gives me a headache. He really does.
“More rapid than eagle his coursers they came.” “Coursers?” Seriously, give me a break! “And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name! Now Dasher! Now Dancer! On, Comet! On, Donner! and Blitzen! Now Cupid!” I changed that myself because there are so many goddamn goats in this part. “To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!” Haven't you had enough yet? This goddamn story has so many pages. By the time the parents finished the book it would be Christmas day already. Hey, I could be reading Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen to you instead. I loved that book even though I’m illiterate, but I do read a lot. I really did love it. Parents wouldn't read us this Christmas story anyway. They are too goddamn
stubborn. You practically have to pay them to read a story to you. Even then they use phony excuses like “it's too late” or “we already read that one.” How phony!
Next there’s this part about dry leaves and hurricanes here but it sounds too phony so I’m skipping it. You can read it for yourself if you aren’t too goddamn lazy.
“And then in a twinkle I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of eight tiny reindeer. As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was all dressed in fur from his head to his foot. His clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.” See what I mean? Soot all over his fur. Phony! I swear to god! “A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a goddamn peddler opening his sack.” I remember one of the only presents I ever got anyone. It was a record that Phoebe wanted for a long time. Boy, was I stupid. I ended up breaking the record into a million pieces. I gave it to her anyhow, and she appreciated it. She really did. Old Phoebe was one hell of a girl. She really was. I gotta stay on the story, ‘cause it will end faster.
“His eyes how they twinkled, his dimples, how merry. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. He had a broad face, and a round little belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump…” Or “fat,” why don’t they just say it? “…a right jolly old elf, and I cracked up when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He didn't say a goddamn word. He really didn't. He just kinda worked without stopping.”
Ok, this is the part that really kills me: “And laying his finger on his nose and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.” He is so phony, he can't fool me. I know why he put his finger on his nose! He wanted to pick it! Maybe he had a big one in there and couldn’t wait for Christmas himself? I guess that is human nature, but in public that is just gross! It really is. Onward, only one more page. Thank god this goddamn book is almost over.
“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle…” And they crashed down on top of Stradlater's dorm. I hate him. He is a secret slob, which is the worst kind. Not exactly the correct ending, but it will do. If you really need it, the ending is “…and they flew out of
sight, like a down from a thistle. But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, I'm tired and I wanna go home.” Ha, ha, just kidding. I really am. He actually said “Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!”
Well, that was fun, but I am still bored as hell. Maybe I'll give old Jane a call? Nah, maybe not, she is probably busy anyhow. She probably is.