Punk Xmas Carol, A, By Alex Herbert, 68 pgs.

This reimagining of the Charles Dickens classic uproots it from its London origin and dumps it in Boston. And don’t expect Mr. Scrooge, because that’s not what this tale is about. The main character in this retelling is Norma, a young punk “who was dead inside to begin with.” Yeah, Norma is fucking up. She’s a selfish jerk who doesn’t respect anybody around her. She thinks it’s her right, because she’s punk. Isn’t that the point, you say. Well, hold up there! Norma’s problem isn’t that she refuses to listen to authority and sticks it The Man. It’s that, unlike her non-binary best friend, Simon—who despite struggling with a heroin addiction, still manages to cook for the homeless—Norma is self-absorbed. When the two meet up on Christmas Eve, to gather donations for Food Not Bombs, Simon politely calls her friend out for some her bullshit privileged white girl behavior. Norma won’t have it. She doubles down and gets defensive. The interaction ends with Norma misgendering Simon, then continuing to dig her hole with an ignorant, queerphobic rant and storming off.

Norma’s Christmas Eve continues in a whirlwind of mean-spiritedness and self-sabotage, until she’s alone in her room drifting off to The Clash. Then she’s visited by the spirit of Simon who tells her she’ll be visited by three ghosts.

The Ghost Of Punk Past is a leather-clad, portly fellow who takes Norma to the set of talk show host Bill Grundy where The Sex Pistols in the iconic interview cuss out the uptight old, host. Norma expresses shock at the band’s wearing of swastikas. Christmas Past uses this scene to teach how such nihilism and shock tactics led, more than anything, to self-destruction. The specter expresses how community-building and mutual aid made punk last long enough for Norma to be a part of it and without the all Nazi imagery she hates seeing. Norma kind of gets it, but says, “But I still don’t really see what this has to do with me.” Does she learn? Well, I’m not going to give away any more of Norma’s spectral visits.

A Punk Xmas Carol gets at what’s really important about punk: community, compassion, and resistance. That requires soul-searching and putting in work. Norma represents the part of punk that refuses this growth and the danger it has on the community. When it was at its best, I was defensive and enlightened, just like Norma. It’s preachy, as was A Christmas Carol, making for a brisk, entertaining read that leaves you with a lot to think about. –Craven Rock (Alex, [email protected])