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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Ghosts on the Nog

December 19, 2014 | by

The great English tradition of Christmas ghost stories.

One of John Leech’s illustrations for A Christmas Carol, 1842.

I’ve long thought of Christmastime as a season of mostly pleasant intrusions: thirty or so days of remembering to tend, checklist style, to the latest pressing bit of Yuletide business that comes racing back to you. The well wishes. The trip to the Home Depot. The seasonal ales.

This is the Fezziwig side of Christmas, that portion that makes you look up the word wassail when you encounter it and think, Ah, that would be fun. But what of the darker elements of Christmas—and what of Christmas for those people who enjoy making merry most years but may have hit upon a bit of a tricky patch? What succor of the season might they find at the proverbial inn?

Having experienced both sides of Christmas, there is but one constant I am aware of that serves you well both in the merriest of times and in the darkest: the classic English Christmas ghost story. You’d think Halloween would be the holiday that elicits the best macabre stories, but you’re going to want to check that opinion and get more on the Snow Miser side of the equation. Time was the English loved to scare you out of your mind come December, but in a fun way that resulted in stories well afield of your typical ghost story outing. Read More »

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Most Wonderful Time

December 12, 2014 | by

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Santas overtake London, 2011. Photo: Garry Knight, via Flickr

Two winters ago, I accidentally found myself in the East Village on the day of SantaCon. For those fortunate enough to have been spared it, this is an annual holiday event in which punters in Santa costumes (mere hats won't cut it) pay an entry fee toward charity and then go on a daylong bar crawl. This happens in cities across the globe. My most vivid memory of that nightmarish evening is a single lewd elf stopping traffic as he squatted in the middle of Second Avenue and slowly, hypnotically, rotated his hips to music only he could hear. 

SantaCon is one of the easiest targets for snark, but it really is pretty awful. The NYC branch says it’s going legit this year—no public nuisances, no blocking traffic, no street urination or gutters running with vomit—and to this end the organizers have hired a prominent lawyer and posted rules of conduct to its site. (Exposing yourself in public is a sex offense, it reminds the Santas.) In further efforts to curb the charitable, drunken Santas’ behavior, various commuter trains, including the Long Island Railroad, have banned pre-gaming. Read More »

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Our Holiday Pop-up Shop Is Coming This Sunday

December 11, 2014 | by

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We’re making a banner and everything. That’s how serious we are.

Experts (i.e., us) have found that holiday shopping is altogether more bearable when there’s food and drink involved. Which is why we’re opening a pop-up shop in a restaurant.

If you’re shopping downtown this Sunday, December 14, come visit us at Contrada, a cozy Italian restaurant in the East Village at 84 East Fourth Street. From three-thirty to six-thirty, we’ll be there with discounted subscriptions, back issues, T-shirts, and boundless reserves of holiday cheer (i.e., snacks and drinks). We’ll gift wrap anything you’d like to give as a present. Stop by and say hello!

If you’re not in New York, you can still get a gift subscription to The Paris Review—just forty dollars for a year’s supply of fiction, poetry, interviews, and art, including a postcard announcing your gift with a personal message. They make a great present for aspiring writers, who should, in the words of William Kennedy, “read the entire canon of literature that precedes them, back to the Greeks, up to the current issue of The Paris Review.”

Order before December 15 and your gift is guaranteed to arrive by Christmas.

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Visit Our Holiday Pop-up Shop This Sunday

December 8, 2014 | by

You may have heard that The Paris Review offers gift subscriptions—just forty dollars for a year’s supply of fiction, poetry, interviews, and art, including a postcard announcing your gift with a personal message. They make a great present for aspiring writers, who should, in the words of William Kennedy, “read the entire canon of literature that precedes them, back to the Greeks, up to the current issue of The Paris Review.”

If you’re shopping downtown this weekend, you can pick up a gift from us in person. For one day only—this Sunday, December 14—we’re opening a pop-up shop at Contrada, a cozy Italian restaurant in the East Village at 84 East Fourth Street. From three-thirty to six-thirty, we’ll be there with discounted subscriptions, back issues, T-shirts, and boundless reserves of holiday cheer (i.e., snacks and drinks). We’ll gift wrap anything you’d like to give as a present. Stop by and say hello!

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The Best Christmas Card Ever

December 25, 2013 | by

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At the Paris Review offices, several of us were lucky enough to receive, in recent days, a mailing from a friend and contributor to these pages. It was a plain cream Christmas card on which was printed,

“‘Merry Christmas!’ the man threatened.” —William Gaddis

We all agreed it was quite the best Christmas card we had ever seen.

The quote comes from Gaddis’s first novel, 1955’s The Recognitions, which, like the rest of his work, is noted for being challenging. (In his Art of Fiction interview, Gaddis objects to this characterization, preferring to think of the labor involved as “a collaboration between the reader and what is on the pages.”) 

And while he may not seem the most festive of authors, Gaddis might have approved: in a letter he sent his mother from Harvard in 1943, young “Bill” writes,

Have got Christmas cards—fifty—do you know where that plate I had for engraving is? It must be perhaps in my desk or somewhere—I’d like to have them done and mailed from here if possible—would appreciate it if you should run across to send it up—

Merry Christmas, Bill!

 

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The Carolers

December 20, 2013 | by

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Several years ago, my mother announced she was through with Christmas trees. She and my father were tired of buying the thing, lugging it home, and decorating and taking it down. There would be no more tree unless we, their four grown children, put it up ourselves. That year my siblings and I drove to the Quincy Artery Garden Center, ten miles outside Boston, and dragged an eight-footer home. It was like wrangling an alligator; the sharp needles dug into our hands and the peak scraped against the living room ceiling, leaving a long gray trail across the “Cotton Balls” ultra-white paint my father had applied mere months before. That was the last yuletide tree at my parents’ house.

Each year I’ve urged my older brother to revive this tradition; naturally, the job falls to him, since, in the Vietnamese custom, he lives with our parents in their house along with his wife and children. The rest of us have moved out. But his two jobs sometimes don’t afford him time to sleep or eat, let alone embellish a tree. My sister has her own family’s tree to tend to now, and I don’t expect my younger brother, the baby of the family, to take action. I am the biggest tree enthusiast, but my returns home from New York City are always too late. My mother firmly believes in getting maximum use out of any purchase; our pine usually went up right after Thanksgiving and lasted into late February through the Asian Lunar New Year.

As a child I always thought our tree was special. My cousin’s tree, carried up from the basement each year by my uncle, looked creepy to me, the flame-retardant branches screwed into a skinny wooden pole painted green. My family kept fresh spruces that filled our living room with a peppercorn smell. The ornaments, whose individual histories and significances we’d forgotten or simply didn’t know, seemed to have come from a Goodwill bin. Most had been passed along to us by my parents’ housekeeping clients, people they cleaned for in the wealthier neighboring towns. I remember a baked clay piece shaped like a Christmas tree, looped through with green ribbon and painted in cursive across the base: Merry X-mas, Kilborns! There was also a glazed ceramic baseball player in a striped jersey holding a bat over his shoulder that read BENJAMIN; each year, we celebrated the athletic talents of some little-league slugger we’d never met. The glue on some pieces had yellowed and cracked, and various parts had fallen off—the bow on a ceramic wreath, the plastic googly eyes of a square snowman fashioned out of Popsicle sticks. Instead of the usual star, we had an angel whose rubber head was constantly rolling off. To get her onto the tree, you had to stick the top branch up her velvety skirt.

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