A Christmas Sampler: Classic Stories of the Season, from Twain to Cheever

E. A. Crawford, Editor, Teresa Kennedy, Editor
E. A. Crawford, Editor, Teresa Kennedy, Editor Hyperion Books $19.95 (309p) ISBN 978-1-56282-933-9
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These diverse, inviting American tales and sketches range from Washington Irving's cozy ``Christmas Thoughts'' (in which ``heart calleth unto heart'') to Bobbie Ann Mason's bittersweet ``Drawing Names,'' in which a lover fails to keep a date. The season's downside is bravely represented, infusing this medley with a bracing contemporaneity. Sobering are two of the black authors' offerings: Frederick Douglass's ``New Relations and Duties'' describes what the revelry meant to a slave, while the white Santa of Langston Hughes's ``One Christmas Eve'' cruelly flusters a black child in order to amuse the others. Hortense Calisher's elegant ``A Christmas Carillon'' zeroes in on the need to ``use the spurious to catch at the real.'' Richard Yates's ``Oh Joseph, I'm So Tired'' sensitively deals with anti-Semitism, while Edna Ferber's chilling ``No Room at the Inn'' shifts the Nativity to Nazi Germany. Impudent humor arises in Damon Runyon's update (``The Three Wise Guys''), which recasts kings as bootleggers. John Kendrick Bangs's ``Thrulow's Christmas Story'' and Christopher Morley's ``The Worst Christmas'' take digs at the writer's yearly task of grinding out yarns and doggerel. Tales to cheer traditionalists include Bret Harte's ``How Santa Came to Simpson's Bar''; Sarah Orne Jewett's ``Mrs. Parkins' Christmas Eve,'' about a stingy widow's conversion; Willa Cather's ``The Burglar's Christmas,'' about a prodigal's homecoming; and L. Frank Baum's ``How Santa Made the First Toy.'' Illustrations, like the stories, have been chosen from the collections of the New York Public Library. (Nov.)
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