I'd like a little Christmas tripe with my Christmas trifle, please...
November 28, 2006 6:40 AM   Subscribe

I want to write a Christmas-themed essay for my book review blog, and I'm trying to come up with some Christmas lit to review. It might be fun, for instance, to gather together a selection of Christmas tripe such as Santa's Christmas Prayer (link not safe for those who have any literary sensibilities and have just eaten) and go to town on it. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, to write something about Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Which Christmas novels/stories/poems do you love and loathe? I don't review movies, so text only please...
posted by orange swan to Writing & Language (13 answers total)
I love The Gift of the Magi.
posted by saffry at 7:03 AM on November 28, 2006

Truman Capote's essay "A Christmas Memory" is overly sentimental and mauldin, but that doesn't stop me from weeping every time I read it.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 7:06 AM on November 28, 2006

I like "Nicholas Was...", from one of Neil Gaiman's collections of short stories/prose/poems:

Nicholas Was...

older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter. He wanted to die.

The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not actually working in the factories.

Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night. During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves' invisible gifts by its bedside. The children slept, frozen into time.

He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas. His punishment was harsher.




posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:34 AM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Love: The Father Christmas Letters by Tolkien.

Hate: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. (It's a very short novella)
posted by Biblio at 8:34 AM on November 28, 2006

I like David Sedaris' Holidays On Ice. I don't think it's either tripe or trifle, but the stories are smart and sad and funny, definitely different from the average holiday-season fare.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:34 AM on November 28, 2006

I remember reading The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum as a kid and enjoying it. I don't recall much about it now, but that certain parts had an unsurprisingly Oz-like feel.

On the deeply maudlin note, there's always The Bird's Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin, which manages to incorporate all the best and worst attributes of 19th century American kid-lit (melodrama, saccharine piety, weird class issues, and beautiful death from consumption), and generally reads like an appropriately axed chapter of "Little Women."

There are a number of writers I particularly enjoy who have written stories with a Christmas theme or setting, including John Cheever, whose "Christmas is a Sad Time for the Poor" is included in his Stories. This also seems to be included in a new anthology, that, from the looks of things appears like it might be useful if you're trying to cover the "better" side of holiday lit.

Seconding Capote's "Christmas Memory" and Sedaris' "Holidays on Ice" for pretty much the same reasons mentioned above.
posted by thivaia at 9:06 AM on November 28, 2006

In the probably not enjoyable Richard Paul Evans Christmas Box, also A Cup of Christmas Tea

I've never read it but you might want to try Jean Shepard's A Christmas Story, which is the book the movie is based on.
posted by drezdn at 9:52 AM on November 28, 2006

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore is great fun.

The movie A Christmas Story is actually an amalgam of several of Shepard's essays, by the way.
posted by phearlez at 9:55 AM on November 28, 2006

As a kid, I loved, loved L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. I had the world's most battered paperback, and I wouldn't let myself read it anytime but Christmas, so every December I'd read it about fifty times in a row.

I still read Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, the second book in her quintet of the same name, every year before Christmas. You do sort of have to read it in the context of the whole series, but I still make a point of doing so because it has an absolutely wonderful, realistic Christmas feeling.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is sort of a classic -- I think it was made into a movie a long time ago, but I've only read the book. It's humor, and it's hilarious, especially if you know what it's really like to produce a pageant.

A Prayer for Owen Meany also has a Christmas-pageant scene that's probably worth reading. I think you'll need to know the setup (or the SparkNotes version, anyway).

If you want glurge, I'm sure there's a Christmas-related Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul or whatever knockoff series. Worse, I think the terrible "Christmas Shoes" song was turned into a picture book. I can assure you that you'll be puking before completing the first page, but hey, if that's your thing. . . .
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:25 AM on November 28, 2006

Two come to mind. Nina Beachcroft's children's book Cold Christmas - rather neglected, introverted child spends Christmas with her parents and other families at a stately home, quite eerie. Michael Innes's Christmas at Candleshoe (also published as Candleshoe following a film version), full of Innes's usual literary surrealism.

And I'd like to say how much I'm enjoying The Orange Swan Review so far - lots of interesting stuff, and even one solution to a Christmas-present problem - who needs AskMe?
posted by paduasoy at 2:57 PM on November 28, 2006

Oh and there's Pratchett's Hogfather (just released as a film, but you can ignore that).
posted by paduasoy at 2:59 PM on November 28, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. There's more material here than I will have time to get through and write about before December 25th. But that's fine - it'll save me from having to ask the question again next year;-)

And thanks, paduasoy!
posted by orange swan at 3:52 PM on November 28, 2006

One more - Ngaio Marsh, Tied up in Tinsel - mystery and a fabulous golden Christmas tree.
posted by paduasoy at 12:38 AM on November 29, 2006

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