Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmastide 2016: The Tenth Day

On this tenth day of Christmastide we'll focus on two short stories, one well-known, one obscure.

In the last week or so, many of us watched or heard bits and pieces of the film, A Christmas Story, during its annual television marathon broadcast by Turner Broadcasting System. Its author, Jean Shepherd (1921-199), was a wonderful storyteller, humorist, and radio personality who left us with enduring images of growing up in America in the '30s and '40s. He assembled the script from several earlier publications, personal notes, and his stand-up comedy routine. A book based on the script emerged in 2003. Millions of people across at least two generations have memorized the best lines of dialogue. Some have gone so far as to purchase and exhibit the "electric sex" of the infamous leg lamp in a prominent window. In our home we choose to have a small version of the item on our tree and surprise our guests will finely decorated leg lamp sugar cookies. 

". . .the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window."

While Shepherd spent his childhood in the Midwest, the poet and writer, Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), grew up in Swansea and the surrounding farmlands of south Wales. In his brief life Thomas would turn experience and observation into some of the most beautiful and lyrical imagery ever written in the English language. Two years after his death his story, A Child's Christmas in Wales, appeared in print. It was an instant hit in Great Britain and in the United States. The story was adapted for a television film in 1987 and broadcast for several years on public television in the United States and the BBC and affiliates in Great Britain. Although true to Dylan's beloved story and well-received by viewers the film never achieved the broad national exposure as a holiday film by 2000. 

A Child's Christmas in Wales Poster

Image result for a child's christmas in wales 1987
"Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground..."

Although both men approached their craft from very different perspectives in terms of geography and style, each has left us with an enduring story of Christmas. Shepherd's work is easily accessible, but Thomas's is obscure, if not lost, to most Americans.  To rectify the issue, listen to the hypnotic and unforgettable voice of the author telling his story:

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