Friday, December 17, 2010

This is as Christmasy as I'm Going to Get

Here's a lesser-known Christmas story that I like to share with my students.

No other time of the year evinces sappy nostalgia like Christmastime.  We always return to the classics, whether it's Bing Crosby or Tiny Tim or the Grinch.  Every year I ask my students what their favorite stories of the season are, and they always say A Christmas Carol and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."   Most years, I make them read "The Gift of the Magi," which some of them have encountered before in one form or another.

However, I also like to have my students read "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story," by Paul Auster, which is sort of "The Gift of the Magi" turned on its head.  Both stories have two characters in run-down apartments, and there are presents of sorts, and both stories take place on Christmas Eve.  But Auster's story is cynical where O. Henry's is sentimental, and its realism cuts through the haze of all that misletoe and Jack Frost nonsense. It's a perfect story for high schoolers and is refreshing in that it weaves a poor old lady, a petty criminal, and a load of stolen photography equipment into a Christmas miracle.

If you have seen the movie Smoke, you are already familiar with the story--it's the black-and-white portion that runs beneath the ending credits and Tom Waits' "You're Innocent When You Dream."  And, incidentally, why don't we sing "You're Innocent When You Dream" at Christmas instead of "Deck the Halls"?  I think I'd like this time of year much more if we did.

You can read Auster's story here, or listen to the author read it himself here.  

1 comment:

  1. So much better than "Gift of the Magi". Thanks for sharing!

    But I never pegged you for a grinchy-scrooge type. Interesting!