Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Short Stories

We've all got our favorite Christmas books. You know, the ones that we read year after year while we curl up in front of the fire or by the Christmas tree. I've got plenty of old favorites that I pick up each holiday season and relish (A Christmas Carol is by far my favorite). But I also love to discover new classics that reflect the joy, the warmth, and the occasional bitter-sweetness of this season. Last year, I discovered Dylan Thomas' lyrical A Child's Christmas in Wales. This year, I was introduced to a little boy called Buddy and a wonderful old lady named Ms. Sook. Truman Capote's three classic holiday stories (all based on his own childhood) are at once funny and heartbreaking, simple and inspired, magical and real. Here is a short summary of each story:

A Christmas Memory:

A young boy is growing up in rural Alabama during the Great Depression. He lives with his unmarried great aunts and uncle all of whom basically ignore him except for one: Ms. Sook. Though in her sixties, Ms. Sook is almost like a child herself. She calls the boy Buddy after a childhood friend who died very young. The two are inseparable and each Christmas is filled with its own unique traditions that draw them even closer. Like making fruitcakes from people as varied as the local peddler to the President of the United States. Or taking one too many sips of the leftover whisky used in making said fruitcakes. Or giving each other a homemade kite every year. As a grown up Buddy reflects on those Christmases gone by, it causes you to reflect on your own childhood with that bittersweet feeling that is nostalgia.

One Christmas:

Buddy is invited to spend Christmas with his estranged father in New Orleans. It does not turn out to be as much fun as Buddy had imagined and living with his father is like living with a stranger. But as his trip comes to a close, Buddy recognizes the emptiness that is heating at his father, and gives him the one gift that will last with his father for all time. Though this was the shortest of the stories, it was by far my favorite. Capote so beautifully captures the inner desire that drives every human on the planet: the desire to be loved.

The Thanksgiving Visitor:

Buddy is horrified when Ms. Sook invites the school bully over for Thanksgiving dinner. What could be worse than to have your biggest enemy in your house during the holidays. Buddy decides to seek revenge on his tormentor as soon as possible. But when fate offers him the chance to do just that, Buddy finds that revenge is not as sweet as it seems.

This was a wonderful introduction to the works of Truman Capote and it has definitely placed more of his works on my TBR list. The writing is incredible and the characters are wonderful. I especially liked the simple yet loving Ms. Sook who brings a warmth and magic of her own to the holidays. So, if you haven't read these lovely stories, grab your coco and your blanket and snuggle up next to the Christmas tree. The beauty is about to unfold!

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