A Literary Christmas: Great Contemporary Christmas Stories

Lilly Golden, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $20 (321p) ISBN 978-0-87113-490-5
In this treasury of seasonal tales, the common theme is often just a peg on which a heavy cloak is hung. To be sure, there is an occasional snowfall, a slow dawning of warm feeling for humanity (or at least family), a Christmas ham and even a starving urchin. But it is their distinctively modern mien that truly unites these 27 stories and makes this volume a worthy addition to the shelf the Christmas works of Dickens and O. Henry have anchored for so long. For every story with what Golden calls an ``emphasis on communion in a secular sense,'' such as Leo Rosten's ``The Night of the Magi'' and Ron Carlson's ``The H Street Sledding Record,'' a sweet paean to love and family life, there is one about loneliness and disaffection, such as Patricia Highsmith's ``A Clock Ticks at Christmas'' and Hortense Calisher's ``A Christmas Carillon.'' With stories by Italo Calvino and Ivan Klima, which offer social commentary in fable form, one can experience a postmodern Christmas; then again, stories by Grace Paley, Sean O'Faolain, Ntozake Shange and Toni Cade Bambara depict multicultural Christmases. Noel as seen here may not always be joyous, but it is certainly sophisticated. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Paperback - 978-0-87113-583-4
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