cover image Christmas Stories

Christmas Stories

Chronicle Books, John Miller. Chronicle Books, $17.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0345-8

James Thurber's curmudgeonly satire on the American mania for sending Christmas cards, John Cheever's bittersweet tale of a lonely New York elevator operator, Anne Sexton's deeply ambivalent lyric poem to her mother and Alex Haley's dramatic story of a slave rebellion on Christmas Eve are among the offerings in this eclectic Christmas sampler. Along with chestnuts like Dickens's ``A Christmas Tree'' and Laura Ingalls Wilder's ``A Merry Christmas,'' this beautifully designed volume includes more unconventional fare, such as Strindberg's brooding symbolist playlet ``The Respite,'' Dostoevsky's account of drunken holiday cheer in a Siberian labor camp and Clarence Major's tangy story, ``Ten Pecan Pies,'' in which a wheelchair-bound old man's stored-up resentment of his wife nearly derails Christmas for their grandchildren. Also included are an excerpt from Frank Capra's screenplay for It's a Wonderful Life , Peter Matthiessen's exquisite log of a shipboard Christmas in the tropics. W.H. Auden's ``The Meditation of Simeon'' and Andrei Codrescu's warm reminiscence of Yuletide in communist Romania where the holiday was celebrated despite an official ban. Miller edited San Francisco Stories and four other collections. (Nov.)