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Jean Shepherd's 'A Christmas Story': The Book That Inspired The Film

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Jean Shepherd's 'A Christmas Story'

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A Christmas Story is one of the most beloved holiday films in recent memory, and its annual 24-hour televised marathon plays on countless television screens at some point or other every Christmas. It is a permanent fixture in the Christmas season, and anybody who has not seen the movie should stop reading this and do so immediately. However, for those who have seen it, here is a surprisingly little-known fact: The popular film version of A Christmas Story is based on a book of the name name, written by New York radio personality Jean Shepherd.

Sort of.

The book version of A Christmas Story includes five of Shepherd's stories, all of which were originally published individually in the 1960s and early 1970s. The first of these--"Duel In The Snow, or Red Ryder Nails The Cleveland Street Kid"--will be the most recognizable, chronicling a young boy's quest for, as he puts it, a "Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time." (A line of sheer poetry that I defy anyone not to read in the manner of Miss Shields.) For any reader who has seen the movie half as many times as has this reviewer (and who finished the above quotation without needing to view the entire sentence), line after line from each of the stories will leap out so with such familiarity that it is impossible to read the text without reliving portions of the film.

Fortunately, however, Shepherd's A Christmas Story is far more than simply a script novelization, and the five stories do not exclusively cover the Christmas season. One particularly memorable installment centers on the redneck Bumpuses, their famed hounds, and a very important Easter ham. Indeed, the four tales not associated with Red Ryder and his varmint-killing air rifle expand upon moments barely touched upon or explained on screen. For those pondering the age-old question of just what Ralphie's Old Man had done to win his major award, the answer lies in the third of the five installments, promisingly entitled "My Old Man And The Lascivious Special Award That Heralded The Birth Of Pop Art." (Spoiler alert: it concerns mind power.)

All in all, A Christmas Story is a fun read. It is perhaps improved by its association with the more widely-known movie, but Shepherd's humor and attention to detail in his writing prevent the book from feeling like a mere companion piece to the film. So, heat up the red cabbage, switch on the leg lamp, and take a look at the book version of the holiday classic of A Christmas Story.

A Christmas Story is available in both ebook and hard copy from Amazon.

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