Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553580488
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/2000
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 492,755
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 6.94(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Connie Willis has won six Nebula Awards (more than any other science fiction writer), six Hugo Awards, and for her first novel, Lincoln's Dreams, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her novel Doomsday Book won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, and her first short-story collection, Fire Watch, was a New York Times Notable Book. Her other works include To Say Nothing of the Dog, Bellwether, Impossible Things, Remake, and Uncharted Territory. Ms. Willis lives in Greeley, Colorado, with her family and is hard at work on her next novel, Working Cape Race.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

I love Christmas. All of it—decorating the tree and singing in the choir and baking cookies and wrapping presents. I even like the parts most people hate—shopping in crowded malls and reading Christmas newsletters and seeing relatives and standing in baggage check-in lines at the airport.

Okay, I lied. Nobody likes standing in baggage check-in lines. I love seeing people get off the plane, though, and holly and candles and eggnog and carols.

But most of all, I love Christmas stories and movies. Okay, I lied again. I don't love all Christmas stories and movies. It's a Wonderful Life, for instance. And Hans Christian Andersen's "The Fir Tree."

But I love Miracle on 34th Street and Christopher Morley's "The Christmas Tree That Didn't Get Trimmed" and Christina Rosetti's poem "Midwinter." My family watches The Sure Thing and A Christmas Story each year, and we read George V. Higgins's "The Snowsuit of Christmas Past" out loud every Christmas Eve, and eagerly look for new classics to add to our traditions.

There aren't a lot. This is because Christmas stories are much harder to write than they look, partly because the subject matter is fairly limited, and people have been writing them for nearly two thousand years, so they've just about rung all the changes possible on snowmen, Santas, and shepherds.

Stories have been told from the point of view of the fourth wise man (who got waylaid on the way to Bethlehem), the innkeeper, the innkeeper's wife, the donkey, and the star. There've been stories about department-store Santas, phony Santas, burned-out Santas, substitute Santas, reluctant Santas, and dieting Santas, to say nothing of Santa's wife, his elves, his reindeer, and Rudolph. We've had births at Christmas (natch!), deaths, partings, meetings, mayhem, attempted suicides, and sanity hearings. And Christmas in Hawaii, in China, in the past, the future, and outer space. We've heard from the littlest shepherd, the littlest wise man, the littlest angel, and the mouse who wasn't stirring. There's not a lot out there that hasn't already been done.

In addition, the Christmas-story writer has to walk a narrow tightrope between sentiment and skepticism, and most writers end up falling off into either cynicism or mawkish sappiness.

And, yes, I am talking about Hans Christian Andersen. He invented the whole three-hanky sob story, whose plot Maxim Gorki, in a fit of pique, described as taking a poor girl or boy and letting them "freeze somewhere under a window, behind which there is usually a Christmas tree that throws its radiant splendor upon them." Match girls, steadfast tin soldiers, even snowmen (melted, not frozen) all met with a fate they (and we) didn't deserve, especially at Christmas.

Nobody, before Andersen came along, had thought of writing such depressing Christmas stories. Even Dickens, who had killed a fair number of children in his books, didn't kill Tiny Tim. But Andersen, apparently hell-bent on ruining everybody's holidays, froze innocent children, melted loyal toys into lumps of lead, and chopped harmless fir trees who were just standing there in the forest, minding their own business, into kindling.

Worse, he inspired dozens of imitators, who killed off saintly children (some of whom, I'll admit, were pretty insufferable and deserved to die) and poor people for the rest of the Victorian era.

In the twentieth century, the Andersen-style tearjerker moved into the movies, which starred Margaret O'Brien (who definitely deserved to die) and other child stars, chosen for their pallor and their ability to cough. They had titles like All Mine to Give and The Christmas Tree, which tricked hapless moviegoers into thinking they were going to see a cheery Christmas movie, when really they were about little boys who succumbed to radiation poisoning on Christmas Eve.

When television came along, this type of story turned into the "Very Special Christmas Episode" of various TV shows, the worst of which was Little House on the Prairie, which killed off huge numbers of children in blizzards and other pioneer-type disasters every Christmas for years. Hadn't any of these authors ever heard that Christmas stories are supposed to have happy endings?

Well, unfortunately, they had, and it resulted in improbably sentimental and saccharine stories too numerous to mention.

So are there any good Christmas stories out there? You bet, starting with the original. The recounting of the first Christmas (you know, the baby in the manger) has all the elements of great storytelling: drama, danger, special effects, dreams and warnings, betrayals, narrow escapes, and—combined with the Easter story—the happiest ending of all.

And it's got great characters—Joseph, who's in over his head but doing the best he can; the wise men, expecting a palace and getting a stable; slimy Herod, telling them, "When you find this king, tell me where he is so I can come and worship him," and then sending out his thugs to try to murder the baby; the ambivalent innkeeper. And Mary, fourteen years old, pondering all of the above in her heart. It's a great story -no wonder it's lasted two thousand years.

Modern Christmas stories I love (for a more complete list, see the end of this book) include O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," T. S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi," and Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, about a church Nativity pageant overrun by a gang of hooligans called the Herdmans. The Herdmans bully everybody and smoke and cuss and come only because they'd heard there were refreshments afterward. And they transform what was a sedate and boring Christmas pageant into something extraordinary.

Since I'm a science-fiction writer, I'm of course partial to science-fiction Christmas stories. Science fiction has always had the ability to make us look at the world from a different angle, and Christmas is no exception. Science fiction has looked at the first Christmas from a new perspective (Michael Moorcock's classic "Behold the Man") and in a new guise (Joe L. Hensley and Alexei Panshin's "Dark Conception").

It's shown us Christmas in the future (Cynthia Felice's "Track of a Legend") and Christmas in space (Ray Bradbury's wonderful "The Gift"). And it's looked at Christmas itself (Mildred Clingerman's disturbing "The Wild Wood").

Customer Reviews

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Miracle and Other Christmas Stories 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Bookworm1951 More than 1 year ago
Not your typical Christmas stories. Some are rather dark. All were somewhat unusual. Not really recommended for children. It was good but not great in my opinion.
leslieg on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This jumped at me off the stacks as I was leaving the library. As it was December, I thought "why not"? I'd never read Connie Willis before, never heard of her. I was so very pleased to have this book. The stories were a great length, letting me fall completely into them, yet able to finish without sacrificing sleep. And fall I did! I loved most of the stories, liked the others. It really got me into Christmas, which was what I'd hoped. Now I've got to read some more of Ms. Willis' work.
cathyskye on LibraryThing 8 months ago
First Line: I love Christmas.Connie Willis, one of my favorite authors, loves Christmas and doesn't much care for Hans Christian Andersen: "Nobody, before Andersen came along, had thought of writing such depressing Christmas stories. Even Dickens, who had killed a fair number of children in his books, didn't kill Tiny Tim. But Andersen, apparently hell-bent on ruining everyone's holidays, froze innocent children, melted loyal toys into lumps of lead, and chopped harmless fir trees who were just standing there in the forest, minding their own business, into kindling."Willis goes on to say in her Introduction to Miracle and Other Christmas Stories that she prefers Miracle on 34th Street to It's a Wonderful Life when watching holiday films (so do I), and she joyfully rolls with abandon through lists of her favorite Christmas stories. What she sets out to do in this book is provide all sorts of well-written, fun holiday short stories, and she succeeds brilliantly.For those of you who are more familiar with Willis's science fiction novels, be warned that these stories aren't exclusively in that genre. There's something for everyone. For example, "Inn" is a church choir story with a time-travel twist; "Miracle" is a delightful duel between Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life; and "Cat's Paw" is a British country house Christmas mystery.My two favorites are "Adaptation" about a divorced bookstore employee trying to spend Christmas Eve with his daughter, and "In Coppelius's Toyshop" in which a world-class jerk gets his just desserts. And if that isn't enough, Willis includes lists of her twelve favorite Christmas stories and movies at the very end.Normally I don't seek out holiday-themed reads. If they fall into my hands, all's well and good. I'm very glad this particular Christmas book fell into my hands this year. I love Christmas but have found myself lacking the true spirit. (I don't want to sound like Hans Christian Andersen, so I won't go into the reasons why I feel this way.) Miracle and Other Christmas Stories went a very long way in bringing some much-needed cheer into my rather bleak frame of mind. Connie Willis continues to be one of my Go-To Authors.
MmeRose on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Connie Willis loves Christmas. This book of eight short stories is both entertaining and though-provoking. My favorites were "Miracle" and Epiphany", the first and last stories in the book. The first is a chaotic, magical story where nothing seems to go right, the last a modern retelling of the Three Magi. And don't skip the introduction or the afterward, you'll find references to great Christmas stories there, as well as in the included lists of twelve great Christmas reads and twelve great Christmas movies.
Ed_Gosney on LibraryThing 8 months ago
An extremely enjoyable take on Christmas stories. For lovers of A Christmas Carol, Adaptation is not to miss.
jopearson56 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This was a Christmas gift from Margaret. I enjoyed it. I haven't ever really learned how to read short stories, I always feel like I must read them like a book, each one, straight through, from beginning to end. Well, this book went pretty fast, but I didn't care for all the stories. I'm not that excited about Willis's writing style, though she comes highly recommended by Margaret. It's fine and fun and easy to read. Sometimes she seems repetitive and the style seems kind of stilted, particularly for stories that to all appearances are supposed to be pretty contemporary. A few of the stories (The Pony, Epiphany, Adaptation) I didn't really get what had happened at the end. I don't like being left up-in-the-air. My favorites, though, were The Inn (time travel! yeah!) and In Coppelius' Toyshop (weirdly creepy).
ElnEm on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Thoroughly enjoyable collection, especially the title "Miracle" story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am amazed and blown away at how good this book is! Peace out
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Connie Willis's collection of short stories will enchant and amuse you, bring you a chuckle and a tear to your eye, and absolutely remind you of the Magic that is Christmas. Do yourself a favor and read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing collection of short stories by an author who understands and respects the wonder, joy, and frustration of both Christmas and the Holiday season. Everybody will see bits and pieces of their own lives in each story. Willis talant lies in taking those ordinary pieces and making them extraordinary. None of the stories ever end where you expect them too. This is an excellent collection that deserves more attention and praise than it will probably recieve.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago