Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

G.I.F.T. Challenge: 1 Naughty, 3 Nice

Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings has issued a Christmas challenge which I could not resist. A Yankee living in Los Angeles needs all the help she can get to fortify her Christmas spirit. The challenge is as follows: partake of 4 Christmas-type things, including movies, novels, short stories, poems, traditions, and memories, then post about them. Here's what I came up with:

1. Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
As a child, this Jim Henson Christmas special was one of my very favorites, but I only learned recently that it was actually adapted from a children's book by Russell Hoban, the man responsible for another of my childhood favorites, Frances the Badger. The illustrations are adorable with with the power of a thousand suns, and the story has a hint of Gift of the Magi about it, so all the elements of a perfect Christmas warm fuzzy are right here. Plus, the book contains the completely unexpected and awesome-for-grown-ups line: "We never had much even when Pa was alive, what with him being a traveling man."

2. "The Birds for Christmas" by Mark Richard (in Charity)
"Fuck Frosty," Michael Christian said to me. "I see that a hunrett times. I want to see "The Birds," man. I want to see those birds get all up in them people's hair. That's some real Christmas TV to me." This story of two hospitalized, abandoned, and unloved boys who want to watch a Hitchcock movie on Christmas Eve is a downer, but incredibly memorable and affecting.

3. "Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor" by John Cheever (in The Collected Stories of John Cheever)
A story of Christmas hospitality gone horribly awry. I hadn't read this story in about ten years, and realize now that much as I like Cheever, his writing is better when it's about the disaffected and alienated upper classes.

4. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
Several years ago, I went on a huge Truman Capote bender. Read every book and biography I could get my hands on. And as interesting as it was to read about his exclusive parties and hobnobbing with Manhattan socialites, I'm partial to little Truman's early years, when he lived in Monroeville, Alabama, raised by a flock of eccentric maiden aunts. Two of his best stories draw a little from this period of his life. One is "The Grass Harp," and the other is this one. A genuinely touching story about the friendship between a little boy and his elderly aunt.

Bonus: a family tradition since I was wee - the viewing of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. Accept no substitutions.


Carl V. said...

Great stuff! 'Birds for Christmas' sounds very different and interesting. I haven't seen Emmit Otter for years and I do like the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol but I have to say that I am partial to the Muppet version. ;)

Brady said...

Just a note to say that...

1. Birds for Christmas has the greatest last sentence of any short story ever written anywhere at any time.

2. That Capote story was given to me as a child, and I read it. This should explain both my general outlook on life and why I visibly flinched when I saw the book sitting out in the apartment.

mary_m said...

Aw... sug, I didn't realize you'd read "The Birds for Christmas."

You do listen when I talk.

And yeah, I probably should have mentioned that I was bawling like a baby last night as I read A Christmas Memory.

Sheri said...

Great post, Now I know what I want to read next. I can't wait to be with Truman and his cackling aunts in Alabama. being from the South, I am always charmed with southern humor.

Also, I agree 100%, the george C. Scott version of a Christmas Carol RULES!