Cinque libri di Natale: The Washington Post

Cinque libri di Natale, o meglio, sul Natale: Five books about Christmas.

Questo l’articolo che il Washington Post ha pubblicato ieri, mercoledì 22 dicembre 2010, firmato da Yvonne Zipp.

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By Yvonne Zipp

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Whether it’s the Grinch staging a midnight raid on Whoville or the Herdman clan terrorizing a nativity play in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, there are so many classic holiday stories that you couldn’t get through them all if you started reading before Arbor Day. That’s fitting, since the annual shindig in Britain and America can be traced back to one author. No, not Richard Paul Evans – Charles Dickens, whose A Christmas Carol helped reignite a craze for the holiday when it was published in 1843. (Mr. Dickens, Visa salutes you.) Every year brings a sleighful of new entries jostling to become the next “Polar Express” – or at least a heartwarming adaptation on the Hallmark Channel.


1Since The Christmas Box became a bestseller in 1995, Evans has been publishing’s Mr. December. In Promise Me (Simon & Schuster), Beth’s husband has died of cancer. Before shuffling off this mortal coil, he was a cheating louse. Beth’s daughter is sick, the doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong, and her job at the dry cleaner’s won’t cover the mortgage. Enter a gorgeous stranger, who instantly diagnoses her daughter’s illness – and then makes off with Beth’s home equity loan. (A bank handing over $63,000 to somebody it’s about to foreclose on – now, there’s a Christmas miracle.) While Evans specializes in heartwarming, there’s no getting around the fact that the central relationship here is less Clement Clarke Moore and more Jerry Springer.

2Miss Arabella Dempsey is also feeling less than merry. Her almost-fiance married her wealthy aunt instead, and the Georgian wallflower is forced to turn teacher. At Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies, Arabella is attacked after stumbling across a Christmas pudding with a message inside. Fortunately, Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh, who is “possessed of every worldly endowment except intellect,” comes to her rescue. (Picture Bertie Wooster as a romantic lead.) Soon the banter and the puddings are flying as the two team up to catch a spy. Lauren Willig’s The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Dutton) combines elements of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel “The Watsons” with a little Baroness Orczy for a sugarplum of a romp that romance fans should gobble up.


3What if Raymond Chandler traded Los Angeles for the Arctic? Cranky elf Gumdrop Coal has been fired from Santa’s Workshop in The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir (Dutton). Then a lifelong member of the Naughty List is gunned down with a Red Ryder carbine-action BB gun: “Someone shot his eye out.” As things at the North Pole turn as nasty as rancid eggnog, Coal is left with an undeniable conclusion: Someone is gunning for the big guy. A holiday noir is a terrific idea, but, with a cast that includes Tiny Tim, the Nutcracker, the Misfit Toys and George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, author Ken Harmon crams in too many pop culture references. (Even the Munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz” get a shout-out. Also “Citizen Kane.”) The effect is rather like someone stuffing a fruitcake, a peppermint stick and a partridge in a pear tree into a blender and pressing frappe.


4 The Christmas Chronicles (Bantam) was first produced as an eight-hour radio play, and this novella based on it seems designed to be read aloud. It traces the “real history” of one Klaus, a woodworker in the Black Forest in the 1300s who turned toymaker to console children after the Black Death ravaged his village. Once the magical elements kick in, the novel loses a little momentum, but author Tim Slover mixes dollops of wit in his folk tale. (An official North Pole Amendment: “Each child may make his or her list of requests as long as he or she pleases. Santa will be happy to consider the first three items. After that his attention tends to flag.”) While it lacks the wonder of “The Polar Express,” “The Christmas Chronicles” offers a similar message. And a reader can easily imagine Rankin/Bass turning it into a stop-motion holiday special, with nemesis Rolf Eckhof taking the place of Burgermeister Meisterburger.


5Boys and dogs go together like marshmallows and cocoa, but the neglected Irish setter that George’s grandfather brings home is strictly on loan while his owner is in jail. Nonetheless, Tucker’s presence at the Kansas dairy farm – still reeling from the death of George’s father – is so welcome that “it was as if the McCray family had suddenly discovered the benefits of running water.” With Christmas With Tucker (Doubleday), Greg Kincaid has written a solid, earnest holiday tale about hard work, family and the importance of a good dog.

Zipp reviews books regularly for the Christian Science Monitor.







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