Monday, February 10, 2014

Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett

This is an interesting little book that I happened to read the Christmas before last at the local library, essentially in one sitting. A lot of people probably wonder why Dickens didn't delve deeper into the personal history of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's ill-fated partner in Carol, especially since he was so central to the story. Unlike his more famous business partner,we learn nothing of Marley's childhood or younger years, only that he lived much of his life as a ruthless business man.
      Just who was Jacob Marley? What made him into the sort of man he became, and how did he and Scrooge meet? The answers to those questions and others come to light in R. William Bennett's small novella. There have been a number of pastiches of A Christmas Carol over the years, two of the most memorable for me, being God Bless Us Everyone, a book detailing the years following Scrooge's conversion, and Christmas Carol II, The Sequel, a spoofy version that finds Scrooge going too far in the other direction, hosted by George Burns back in 1986. No pastiche is or should be considered canonical; however Beenet's tale is not only better than most, it fills out what the life of Marley may well have been like. One almost wishes for Dickens' stamp of approval--though what the author's opinion would be is anyone's guess.

      One more thing: the author does deal with the issue of Marley's salvation. When we meet in the story, it appears that Marley is a lost soul, doomed to an eternity of hopeless wandering. Not tom divulge the ending, but the author comes up with a scenario in which this might not necessarily be the case, and he does without altering anything that Dickens wrote in the original. I've also read that the author happens to be a Mormon; as I'm only marginally familiar with the Mormon concept of an afterlife, so I can't say for certain to what degree that might have shaped his writing.

But Jacob T. Marley is a worthy "sequel", and one well-worth picking up. 

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