Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present

March 3, 2010 at 5:28 am (Memoir, Non-fiction) (, )

Tinsel: The Search for America's Christmas Present by Hank Stuever

Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present by Hank Stuever
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1st edition, 2009
333 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir

Synopsis & Review: Black Friday 2006: Hank Stuever mingles with the crowd lined up outside a Texas Best Buy in the pre-dawn hours. When the doors open at five, he will be swept in alongside all the shoppers hunting the best bargains available on this most vaunted shopping day of the year. Business is booming in the US, and everyone seems to be spending, whether they have the money or not. From that arc-sodium lit parking lot, Stuever will follow several people through the 2006 Christmas season in suburban Texas, trailing them through malls and McMansion-filled neighborhoods. There’s Caroll, a single mother and devoted Christian, trying to provide her family with a lovely Christmas. There’s Tammie, energetic and optimistic, who decorates other peoples’ houses and is so involved with it that’s he sometimes neglects her own family. And there are the Trykoskis, a young and child-free couple who every year create a bigger, brighter, more elaborate light show on their house and yard, dazzling an endless stream of lookers on. While observing his subjects, Stuever also becomes an active participant, attending church programs with Carroll and hanging garland with Tammie. While immersed in their experiences for three years running (after spending the entire 2006 season in Texas, Stuever returns for visits in 2007 and 2008), Stuever also reflects on his own Christmases, and those of America.

I added Tinsel to my library request list right when it came out, but still didn’t get to read it till February. It’s okay, though; it doesn’t need to be Christmas to enjoy Tinsel. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

Challenge Wrap-Up: 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge (5/5)

December 30, 2009 at 3:10 am (Challenge Wrap-Up) ()

Nely at All About {N} hosted a 2009 Holiday reading Challenge!

Though I didn’t win any of the goodies offered during the length of this Holiday Reading Challenge, I definitely enjoyed it. Yes, I cross-posted three of the reads with the Christmas Challenge, but I still read a number of excellent holiday related books–and also have plenty to choose from next year.

Holiday Books Read
1. The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis
2. Christmas Stars: Fantastic Tales of Yuletide Wonder ed. by David G. Hartwell
3. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s [sic] A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford
4. A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales, ed. by Brian M. Thomsen
5. Shivers for Christmas, ed. by Richard Dalby

Permalink Leave a Comment

Challenge Wrap-Up: Christmas Reading Challenge (3/3)

December 30, 2009 at 3:10 am (Challenge Wrap-Up) ()

Over at The True Book Addict, Michelle hosted the Christmas Reading Challenge.

christmas reading 2

The Christmas Reading Challenge:

I love themed reading and challenges, and I love Christmas, so how could I resist? Handy for those with very busy holidays, The Christmas Reading Challenge was only three books long. This was by far the quickest challenge I’ve participated in, but then, I do get enthusiastic about the holidays.

Christmas Challenge Books
1. The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis
2. Christmas Stars: Fantastic Tales of Yuletide Wonder ed. by David G. Hartwell
3. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s [sic] A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford

Some books I considered included
Christmas Forever (SF anthology)
Christmas Stars (SF anthology)
A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales (SF anthology)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (old favorite)
The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Shivers for Christmas ed. Richard Dalby (horror tales anthology)

Permalink Leave a Comment

Shivers for Christmas

December 29, 2009 at 4:45 am (Horror, Short stories, Victorian literature) (, )

Shivers for Christmas ed. Richard Dalby

Shivers for Christmas edited by Richard Dalby
Thomas Dunne, 1st edition, 1995
250 pages
Genre: Christmas stories, horror, short stories

Synopsis & Review: There’ll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

When I was ten, my mother bought two volumes of Richard Dalby’s Chillers for Christmas, a collecton of macabre and dark short stories with Christmas themes. She gave one copy to my eldest sister for Christmas, and kept the other, and since then, it’s been an integral part of my Christmas reading. I’ve read it nearly ever year since then, unless I was away from home or it was packed away due to space constraints. Since I’ve enjoyed Chillers for Christmas so many times, I decided to check out some of Mr Dalby’s other collections, and found Shivers for Christmas just in time for the holiday reading challenges.

Regrettably, Shivers is a lesser volume than Chillers; perhaps it’s simply my nostalgia for the latter that makes it superior to my mind, or it could be that Mr Dalby had simply exhausted his resources with his many other collections—I cannot say. Or perhaps it’s just that the title is apt: these are stories to induce shivers, a delicate frisson of horror, rather than the chilling and sometimes terrible stories found in Chillers. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 1 Comment

A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales

December 18, 2009 at 5:13 am (Fantasy, Science fiction, Short stories) (, )

A Yuletide Universe ed. Brian M. Thomsen

A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales ed. by Brian M. Thomsen
Aspect, 1st edition, 2003
255 pages
Genre: Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, short stories, Christmas

Synopsis & Review: The Christmas season (which for me lasts from just before Thanksgiving till January 7th) is an excellent one for indulging in short stories. For one, you’ve got the longstanding tradition of stories told ‘round the Yule fire. For another, many of us are so busy that we cannot quite commit to long novels, and a good anthology of short stories provides merriment or scares in small but satisfying doses in between shopping expeditions and baking extravaganzas, house tidying and decorating.

I had my eye on this one from the start of the holiday reading challenges. Boasting luminaries such as Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker, how could I not enjoy it? Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 1 Comment

The Man Who Invented Christmas

December 18, 2009 at 4:10 am (Biography, Classics, Literature, Non-fiction) (, , , )

The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s [sic] A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits byLes Standiford
Crown Publishers, 1st edition, 2008
237 pages
Genre: non-fiction, Christmas, biography

Synopsis & Review: In 1843, Charles Dickens’ popularity seemed to have plateaued and he was near bankruptcy. Rather than succumb to despair, he sat down and penned one of his most personal stories, and had it edited and published in six short weeks—just in time for the Christmas season. Though he first made little profit on A Christmas Carol, it went on to restore Dickens’ popularity, and became not only his most popular work, but one of the most widely read in the English language in the nineteenth century. Adapted myriad times for stage and screen (beginning nearly immediately; the first opened 5 February 1844), it remains one of the most enduring works of fiction, known in detail even to the many people who have not read it. Les Standiford argues that A Christmas Carol is not merely a holiday entertainment staple, but is also the “reason for the season,” and that Charles Dickens did not simply celebrate Christmas and the benevolence and goodwill it engenders, but resuscitated a dying holiday.

I’ve actually never read A Christmas Carol, and I’ve never managed Dickens. I’ve tried Great Expectations a few times, but then I wander off and read something worthwhile like a Christopher Pike book, or perhaps Gone with the Wind for the umpety billionth time. This makes me feel inadequate, as though I am lacking some fundamental Dickens appreciation spot in my brain. (I can usually assuage that feeling with the knowledge of my overlarge Zola appreciation spot, but it’s not always a comfort.) So I read this essentially on a whim, selecting it while looking for possible books for my two holiday reading challenges. I like Christmas after all, and I like books on cultural history. Unfortunately, this book didn’t really satisfy. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 3 Comments

Next page »