A Christmas Memory

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First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote's rural Alabama boyhood has become a modern-day classic. We are proud to be reprinting this warm and delicately illustrated edition of A Christmas Memory—"a tiny gem of a holiday story" (School Library Journal, starred review). Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: "It's fruitcake weather!" Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring ...
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Peck, Beth NY 1989 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. 4to-over 9?-12" tall. This is a New and Unread copy of the first edition (1st printing). Originally published in ... 1984 this is the first edition with the Beth Peck illustrations. Read more Show Less

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Overview

First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote's rural Alabama boyhood has become a modern-day classic. We are proud to be reprinting this warm and delicately illustrated edition of A Christmas Memory—"a tiny gem of a holiday story" (School Library Journal, starred review). Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: "It's fruitcake weather!" Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls—one young and one old—and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals.

A reminiscence of a Christmas shared by a seven-year-old boy and a sixtyish childlike woman, with enormous love and friendship between them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After 50 years, Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory (1956), illus. by Beth Peck, will likely still mesmerize readers. Capote's memoir of the Christmas he spent at age seven with an elderly lady, his only friend, now includes a CD of the book narrated by Celeste Holm. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Capote's story of the beautiful and loving relationship between an orphaned boy and an elderly woman is accompanied by fine illustrations that capture both the era and the warmth shared between them. Capote presents one autumn and winter as the two prepare the annual fruitcakes and make homemade gifts for one another. Capote's story was originally published in December 1956 in Mademoiselle magazine. It is a story whose message and language will be appreciated more by adults. The nostalgia and the sadness of the ending will not be for every child. However, for the special older child who is still lucky enough to enjoy listening to a parent or grandparent read, this will affect both deeply. This new edition includes a CD narrated by Celeste Holm whose superb reading adds just the right touch of a Southern accent and completes the fine package.
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-- This tiny gem of a holiday story, although a memory, is told in the present tense, which gives it a certain immediacy. Written by Capote as if a backward glance at his childhood while in college, the story traces a month of pre-Christmas doings in his parentless, poor household. The seven-year-old and his ``friend,'' a distant, eccentric, and in those times elderly (mid-sixties), cousin prepare several dozen fruitcakes and mail them to people they admire. Gathering the pecans from those left behind in the harvest, buying illegally made whiskey for soaking the cakes, getting a little tipsy on the leftovers, cutting their own tree, and decorating it with homemade ornaments are some of the adventures the two share. The outside world barely intrudes on this portrayal of a loving friendship which wraps readers in coziness like the worn scrap quilt warms the old woman. Reminiscent of Lisbeth Zwerger, Peck's watercolor-and-ink full-page illustrations greatly enhance the text. Her use of lighter shades, tawny colors, and fine lines plus a background wash which suggests rather than delineates detail is perfect for this holiday memory of Christmas celebrated in rural Alabama in the early 1930s. --Susan Hepler, Arlington Public Library, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679800408
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/1989
  • Series: Knopf Book and Cassette Classic Series
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 10.54 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

TRUMAN CAPOTE was born in 1924 and died in 1984. Based on his own boyhood in rural Alabama in the 1930s, A Christmas Memory was orginally published in Mademoiselle in 1956 and later was included in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

BETH PECK, a designer and illustrator of many children's books, fell in love with the writing of Truman Capote and counts her paintings for A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor, also by Capote, among the work that is closest to her heart.

Biography

Truman Capote was a native of New Orleans, where he was born on September 30, 1924. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was an international literary success when first published in 1948, and accorded the author a prominent place among the writers of America's postwar generation. He sustained this position subsequently with short-story collections (A Tree of Night, among others), novels and novellas (The Grass Harp and Breakfast at Tiffany's), some of the best travel writing of our time (Local Color), profiles and reportage that appeared originally in The New Yorker (The Duke in His Domain and The Muses Are Heard), a true-crime masterpiece (In Cold Blood), several short memoirs about his childhood in the South (A Christmas Memory, The Thanksgiving Visitor, and One Christmas), two plays (The Grass Harp and House of Flowers and two films (Beat the Devil and The Innocents).

Mr. Capote twice won the O.Henry Memorial Short Story Prize and was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died in August 1984, shortly before his sixtieth birthday.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 30, 1924
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Orleans, Louisiana
    1. Date of Death:
      August 25, 1984
    2. Place of Death:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      Trinity School and St. John's Academy in New York City and Greenwich High School in Connecticut

Read an Excerpt

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.

A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable-not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "It's fruitcake weather!"

The person to whom she is speaking is myself. I am seven; she is sixty-something. We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together--well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880's, when she was still a child. She is still a child.

"I knew it before I got out of bed," she says, turning away from the window with a purposeful excitement in her eyes. "The courthouse bell sounded so cold and clear. And there were no birds singing; they've gone to warmer country, yes indeed. Oh, Buddy, stop stuffing biscuit and fetch our buggy. Helpme find my hat. We've thirty cakes to bake."

It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat."

The hat is found, a straw cartwheel corsaged with velvet roses out-of-doors has faded: it once belonged to a more fashionable relative. Together, we guide our buggy, a dilapidated baby carriage, out to the garden and into a grove of pecan trees. The buggy is mine; that is, it was bought for me when I was born. It is made of wicker, rather unraveled, and the wheels wobble like a drunkard's legs. But it is a faithful object; springtimes, we take it to the woods and fill it with flowers, herbs, wild fern for our porch pots; in the summer, we pile it with picnic paraphernalia and sugar-cane fishing poles and roll it down to the edge of a creek; it has its winter uses, too: as a truck for hauling firewood from the yard to the kitchen, as a warm bed for Queenie, our tough little orange and white rat terrier who has survived distemper and two rattlesnake bites. Queenie is trotting beside it now.

Three hours later we are back in the kitchen hulling a heaping buggyload of windfall pecans. Our backs hurt from gathering them: how hard they were to find (the main crop having been shaken off the trees and sold by the orchard's owners, who are not us) among the concealing leaves, the frosted, deceiving grass. Caarackle! A cheery crunch, scraps of miniature thunder sound as the shells collapse and the golden mound of sweet oily ivory meat mounts in the milkglass bowl. Queenie begs to taste, and now and again my friend sneaks her a mite, though insisting we deprive ourselves. "We mustn't, Buddy. If we start, we won't stop. And there's scarcely enough as there is. For thirty cakes." The kitchen is growing dark. Dusk turns the window into a mirror: our reflections mingle with the rising moon as we work by the fireside in the firelight. At last, when the moon is quite high, we toss the final hull into the fire and, with joined sighs, watch it catch flame. The buggy is empty, the bowl is brimful.


We eat our supper (cold biscuits, bacon, blackberry jam) and discuss tomorrow. Tomorrow the kind of work I like best begins: buying. Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple, rinds and raisins and walnuts and whiskey and oh, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings: why, we'll need a pony to pull the buggy home.

But before these purchases can be made, there is the question of money. Neither of us has any. Except for skinflint sums persons in the house occasionally provide (a dime is considered very big money); or what we earn ourselves from various activities: holding rummage sales, selling buckets of hand-picked blackberries, jars of homemade jam and apple jelly and peach preserves, rounding up flowers for funerals and weddings. Once we won seventy-ninth prize, five dollars, in a national football contest. Not that we know a fool thing about football. It's just that we enter any contest we hear about: at the moment our hopes are centered on the fifty-thousand-dollar Grand Prize being offered to name a new brand of coffee (we suggested "A.M."; and, after some hesitation, for my friend thought it perhaps sacrilegious, the slogan "A.M.! Amen!"). To tell the truth, our only really profitable enterprise was the Fun and Freak Museum we conducted in a back-yard woodshed two summers ago. The Fun was a stereopticon with slide views of Washington and New York lent us by a relative who had been to those places (she was furious when she discovered why we'd borrowed it); the Freak was a three-legged biddy chicken hatched by one of our own hens. Everybody hereabouts wanted to see that biddy: we charged grownups a nickel, kids two cents. And took in a good twenty dollars before the museum shut down due to the decease of the main attraction.

But one way and another we do each year accumulate Christmas savings, a Fruitcake Fund. These moneys we keep hidden in an ancient bead purse under a loose board under the floor under a chamber pot under my friend's bed. The purse is seldom removed from this safe location except to make a deposit, or, as happens every Saturday, a withdrawal; for on Saturdays I am allowed ten cents to go to the picture show. My friend has never been to a picture show, nor does she intend to: "I'd rather hear you tell the story, Buddy. That way I can imagine it more. Besides, a person my age shouldn't squander their eyes. When the Lord comes, let me see him clear." In addition to never having seen a movie, she has never: eaten in a restaurant, traveled more than five miles from home, received or sent a telegram, read anything except funny papers and the Bible, worn cosmetics, cursed, wished someone harm, told a lie on purpose, let a hungry dog go hungry. Here are a few things she has done, does do: killed with a hoe the biggest rattlesnake ever seen in this county (sixteen rattles), dip snuff (secretly), tame hummingbirds (just try it) till they balance on her finger, tell ghost stories (we both believe in ghosts) so tingling they chill you in July, talk to herself, take walks in the rain, grow the prettiest japonicas in town, know the recipe for every sort of old-time Indian cure, including a magical wart-remover.

Now, with supper finished, we retire to the room in a faraway part of the house where my friend sleeps in a scrap-quilt-covered iron bed painted rose pink, her favorite color. Silently, wallowing in the pleasures of conspiracy, we take the bead purse from its secret place and spill its contents on the scrap quilt. Dollar bills, tightly rolled and green as May buds. Somber fifty-cent pieces, heavy enough to weight a dead man's eyes. Lovely dimes, the liveliest coin, the one that really jingles. Nickels and quarters, worn smooth as creek pebbles. But mostly a hateful heap of bitter-odored pennies. Last summer others in the house contracted to pay us a penny for every twenty-five flies we killed. Oh, the carnage of August: the flies that flew to heaven! Yet it was not work in which we took pride. And, as we sit counting pennies, it is as though we were back tabulating dead flies. Neither of us had a head for figures; we count slowly, lose track, start again. According to her calculations, we have $12.73. According to mine, exactly $13. I do hope you're wrong, Buddy. We can't mess around with thirteen. The cakes will fall. Or put somebody in the cemetery. Why, I wouldn't dream of getting out of bed on the thirteenth." This is true: she always spends thirteenths in bed. So, to be on the safe side, we subtract a penny and toss it out the window.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2010

    A Beautiful Version of this story.

    This is a beautiful version of this story. It is very giftable and comes with a CD. I gave it to my grandson for Christmas because it is one of my favorite Christmas stories. Everytime you read it you notice something different. It always makes me cry but in a good way! It is so real. Just a lovely well illustrated version of this timeless story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    An inexpensive version of a timeless story

    This is a good version for students, or a reading group. It is the same great story but not as expensive as a hardback or a collection. I gave this to my minister. I am sure there is a sermon in there somewhere.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Christmas Memory

    A delightful story, full of vivid detail from which one could easily form mental illustrations. Nevertheless, the illustrations provided seem very much in tune with the story, and add to the book's appeal. The audio version is quite nice also. This is not a children's book, but a touching memoir with an ending of poignant sadness, a boy and an elderly woman, two unexpectedly companionable misfits, she unwilling to grow up, and he being forced to do so.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2013

    exceptional

    At first I thought it was a childrens book because of the format & the beautiful drawings....but it turned out to be a beautiful life's lesson that had me in joyful tears at the end. I will read it every Christmas to remind me of what the holiday really represents!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2011

    Not my favorite

    I prefer happy endings, especially in a Christmas story. Also, it ended too abruptly. I understand it's supposed to be a classic, but I was disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2005

    Christmas stories with meaning!

    This is a Christmas story, but it is also about 'bonding' between generations. Thus, it is touching in a way that makes it readable anytime, whether it is Christmas or August. Similarly, Christmas stories that explore a concept are the ones that can be read anytime, like 'The Polar Express' (explores the word 'BELIEVE') and 'The Blacksmith's Gift' (explores the word 'PURPOSE'). Of course, there are more books like this, but finding one is always a gem!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2003

    Christmas, Love & Friendship

    An incredibly touching story about the rituals shared at Christmas between a parentless 7 year old boy and somewhat eccentric 60 year old cousin. It is a story I read every Christmas and just began sharing with my 6 year old son since it reminds me that I should truely be happy with all I have, when there are so many who have so little. The bond that developed between Buddy and his 'friend' lasts a lifetime and reminds us all of the true meanings of Christmas which is love, sharing and hope. My only disappointment is that the movie, which stars Geraldine Page for which she won an Emmy, is not available on DVD or VHS.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2002

    Passing on the touching part

    For many years our family, usually 6 to 8 people, gathers on Christmas eve to read A Christmas Memory. The critical moment comes near the end when the story becomes very touching. Nearly always it brings tears to the eyes of all, so the big thing is -- Who winds up reading that part? Because the reader too wells up and everyone wipes their eyes and laughs at the same time. A wonderful, autobiographical tale by an otherwise strange man.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2000

    Christmas Memory Is Memorable

    Fun and touching story that anyone can enjoy. Written in the present tense, pulled me deep into the book and helped me 'bond' with the characters. It has quickly become one of my favorites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2000

    A Soul Changing Story

    This is a story that everyone, young or old, rich or poor can come to enjoy. It is a timeless masterpiece of the story of a bond of love that not even death can break

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    Posted December 9, 2010

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    Posted December 23, 2008

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    Posted December 10, 2009

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    Posted December 7, 2009

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