Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

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Christmas Stories: Mr. Bingle

December 23, 2013

I have pretty low standards for how coherent something has to be before I post it, but the 800 words I wrote on George Barr McCutcheon’s Mr. Bingle last week didn’t meet them. Basically, the problem was that I loved the first few chapters of the book, hated the rest, and allowed my extremely conflicted feelings about George Barr McCutcheon to get all over everything. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: The Bachelor’s Christmas

December 13, 2013

So, everyone here likes stories about spinsters getting back a bit of their own, right? “The Bachelor’s Christmas” isn’t that, but thematically it’s a cross between that and Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Christmas. As you can probably imagine, I’m super into it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: The Blossoming Rod

December 11, 2013

I realized, as I was looking around for Christmas stories to read this year, that when I think about Christmas stories I’m only thinking about one kind of Christmas story. For me to even read a Christmas story means it’s probably set in the modern day, or, you know, the time period in which it was written. And it’s got to be set in something resembling reality. Like, I’ve enjoyed stories about talking mice, for sure, but if your Christmas story consists of a talking mouse telling a story about how another talking mouse got killed by a cat as a direct result of not believing in Santa Claus, I’m hitting the back button. So it was fitting that I want directly from The Mouse and the Moonbeam to The Blossoming Rod, which is the most prosaic Christmas story I’ve ever read. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Santa Claus’s Partner

December 9, 2013

So, Thomas Nelson Page was apparently a Lost Cause-er. Gross. I’m glad I didn’t love Santa Claus’s Partner. I mean, it’s fine. It’s a nice, workmanlike Christmas story with no indication that the author was super into slavery. It just doesn’t make me want to read others of Page’s books, which is nice because I wouldn’t want to give Dead Thomas Nelson Page the satisfaction.

Also, while I’m not actually going to spend this review referring to the main character by Benedict Cumberbatch names, well…I want you to know that I could. Because his name is Berryman Livingstone, and if Butterfly Creamsicle is close enough for the internet, then Berryman Livingstone is, too. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Just Sweethearts

December 24, 2012

Just Sweethearts, by Harry Stillwell Edwards, is subtitled “a Christmas Love Story,” but it’s not really a Christmas story at all, although it does make a halfhearted stab at the Unity of Christmastimes. It starts with a Christmas Eve meet cute, and ends the following Christmas Eve. I suspect the subtitle was mostly an excuse to publish an edition with a fancy Christmas-themed binding.

Two years ago I spent a day in December at the library and read all the Christmas stories I could get my hands on, plus this. I promptly forgot the title, but I’ve thought of it from time to time over the past couple of years, and when I finally figured out what it was, I reread it to see if I could figure out why it was so memorable, and whether it was as terrible an excuse for a Christmas story as I remembered. And it was definitely the latter, but the former still has me stumped. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Miss Santa Claus of the Pullman Car

December 21, 2012

You know how some authors have specific things that they really like? Stuff you come across and think, “Well, if I didn’t know this was a book by ____, I would know now?” And you know how some of those things are weirdly specific?

Annie Fellows Johnston has a thing about fairytales and practical life-lessons and jewelry, in combination. There’s always a fairytale, it always has a specific application, and the child hearing it always gets a trinket to remember it by. And hey, that’s cool. All of those things appeal to me, separately and together. But clearly not as much as they appeal to Johnston. And it’s not that weird the first time around, but each time it seems weirder. And I’ve read all of the Little Colonel books, so at this point it seems pretty weird.

That’s a shame, though, because the morally significant jewelry is much more organic in Miss Santa Claus of the Pullman Car than in any of the Little Colonel books. Also, some of the morally significant jewelry isn’t jewelry at all. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: A Reversible Santa Claus

December 19, 2012

I didn’t love A Reversible Santa Claus, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. I can’t think of anything I wanted from it that I didn’t get, anyway.

It’s by Meredith Nicholson, author of the excellent House of a Thousand Candles, and it’s got a pretty good setup: a former thief known as Billy the Hopper — for the ease with which he’s always made his escapes — has retired with one last haul and settled down on a chicken farm with his wife, Mary, and another former thief, Humpy. Mary used to be a pickpocket. Humpy used to raise chickens in jail, so he’s got valuable experience. All three of them are glad to be living a quiet life within the law, but one day the Hopper sees a wallet sticking out of someone’s jacket on the train and is unable to resist pocketing it. This sets in motion a chain of events that results in the Hopper accidentally kidnapping a toddler.

From the point when the Hopper steals the wallet, through the accidental kidnapping and well into the middle of the story, he seems set on making things worse for himself and it’s a little uncomfortable to read. It doesn’t help that Mary and Humpy are so hostile to him. Things shift into a smoother gear when he tries to return the kidnapped child and ends up being sent on a supremely ridiculous quest. Everything goes a little more slapstick, and a lot more easily, from that point on — maybe too much so, as the various difficulties the Hopper still faces turn out to be implausibly easy to deal with. Still, it’s reassuring after the nerve-wracking beginning, so I didn’t really mind.

That’s the case with most of The Reversible Santa Claus‘ imperfections: there are things wrong with it, I guess; they just don’t seem like problems. This story has all the Christmas story things — a cute kid, a slightly beleaguered young couple, a reformed criminal, two vaguely Scrooge-like individuals, and themes of forgiveness and people being totally ridiculous. And when you take a closer look, none of it makes much sense, but the whole thing proceeds so smoothly and pleasantly that it’s hard to care. I don’t think this is going to be anyone’s favorite Christmas story, because Nicholson doesn’t try too hard with the emotional stuff — probably for the best — but it’s more than adequate.

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