Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Little Book of Christmas

I spent part of Boxing Day reading A Little Book of Christmas which I happened to come across as free Kindle book just before the holiday. It contains four short Christmas stories. My Kindle took me right to the first page of the first story, but I soon felt need to click myself back to the “cover” page to double check: was the book really an old classic as I had assumed…?

Hetherington wasn’t half a bad sort of a fellow, but he had his peculiarities, most of which were the natural defects of a lack of imagination. He didn’t believe in ghosts, or Santa Claus, or any of the thousands of other things that he hadn’t seen with his own eyes, and as he walked home that rather chilly afternoon just before Christmas and found nearly every corner of the highway decorated with bogus Saints, wearing the shoddy regalia of Kris-Kringle, the sight made him a trifle irritable. ---

But yes, this book was first published in 1912. Not 2012. And still after finishing all four stories, the impression that lingers with me is that the world – and big city life and crazy Christmas shopping – has not really changed as much as one might think in the last 100 years…

John Kendrick Bangs (1862 – 1922) was an American author, editor and satirist, born in Yonkers, New York. His father was a lawyer in New York City, as was his brother.

Bangs himself started at Columbia Law School but left after one year in 1884 to become Associate Editor of Life. In 1888 he moved on to Harper & Brothers where he soon got the title of Editor of the Departments of Humor of all three of their magazines. In 1904 he was appointed editor of Puck, perhaps the foremost American humor magazine of its day.

His first wife with whom he had three sons, died in 1903. He then remarried and in 1907 moved from Yonkers to Ogunquit, Maine. He died from stomach cancer in 1922 at age fifty-nine, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The partial (!) bibliography in Wikipedia is quite impressive. I also learn that he’s even got a whole genre named after him – Bangsian fantasy which is “a fantasy genre which concerns the use of famous literary or historical individuals and their interactions in the afterlife”. I also find that there are lots of titles by Bangs available as free ebooks at Amazon… So if you’ve had enough Santa-stories already this Christmas, you could try something else. I might, some day. (Just now I feel like my reading list keeps growing instead of shrinking, with every book I read!)

7 comments:

  1. this makes me happy that you are loving your kindle like i love mine. and i had not thought about it but i guess things are pretty much the same just different same

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  2. Goodness, a fantasy category I have not heard of. I used to have a big softcover dictionary about science fiction and fantasy books. It told which were the best and a bit about each and the author, even magical realism. But not this. What gives you the opinion of people not changing that much in modern times?.

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    1. Ginny, with these stories it's the way the writer describes the crazy shopping before Christmas, all the Santas, electric city lights, traffic, and big stores full of mechanical toys, and (rich) parents showering their children with toys but not spending time with them etc... Today the tin soldiers are probably a computer game and the mechanical toys a film to watch, but I kept thinking how easy it would be to turn the basic stories into modern holiday-TV-movies. (Maybe it's already been done.)

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  3. That short paragraph just makes you want to finish the book.

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  4. The paragraph you quoted certainly doesn't sound like it was written all that time ago.

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  5. It's very interesting that it hasn't changed that much. Glad you enjoy the Kindle, thinking about getting one.

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  6. Thank you for the recommendation! I quite like what you tell us about Mr. Bangs and his work, and you know how much I appreciate the free ebooks from the Kindle store :-)

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