Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Mavis Gallant’s “The Deceptions of Marie-Blanche”

If the story were titled “Les Deceptions de Marie-Blanche”, it might be translated as “The Disappointments of Marie-Blanche”: an apt choice.

San Francisco Earthquake, 1907 – Click for source details

And, yet, as it stands, there is the added implication that Marie-Blanche has not only been disappointed by her love affairs, but that the […]


Derek McCormack’s Christmas Days (2005)

When I was a girl, I had the same kind of advent calendar that Derek McCormack describes receiving every year from his mother, the flat ones made of cardstock, with winter scenes decorating them, little images behind each flap as you discovered them. No toys, no candies.

House of Anansi, 2005 Designed and Decorated […]


The Winter Book

When I was a girl and allowed to choose my own books for a special occasion, I always selected an anthology. If I’d spotted a book like Rotraut Susanne Berner’s The Winter Book, it would have been a shoe in.

First, my choice was practical: they were larger books.

(Well, if someone is buying you […]


“An Ex-Mas Feast”

So, usually when there is a giveaway for an event or a challenge I opt out, but I didn’t notice that there were prizes for Amy’s Nigerian Independence Day reading event.

Not until I noticed that I’d been lucky enough to win a copy of The Granta Book of the African Short Story, edited by […]


Tolkien’s The Father Christmas Letters

Methuen, 1976

Did you even know about these?

The first was written by J.R.R. Tolkien to his children in 1920, and the collection was edited by Baillie Tolkien.

(The last one, too, appears in the collection, although it’s just a sampling of the oeuvre.)

I discovered it this past autumn, while searching in the […]


Lee Smith’s Christmas Letters

What a cozy little volume to read in December.

Based around the series of annual letters written by the women of one family, this is not a plot-driven chronicle.

It’s a meditative, quiet collection of updates on everyday family life.

You know, the Christmas Letter.

As the author indicates in her “Dear Reader” letter, what […]


Fourth Window in Winter: Recreational

Adam Gopnik’s notes for this lecture/chapter read like this: “Chance to talk at length about ice hockey.”

If the idea doesn’t thrill you, don’t let it put you off the book entirely. The rest of that page and the next is about the Russian troika “racing through the snowy wastes”.

Because it is, as the […]


Third Window on Winter: Recuperative

Adam Gopnik’s third lecture considers the making of the modern Christmas, winter’s holiday.

He describes it as a “profoundly compound festival” and discusses its origins.

It marries “not just many different pagan holidays but also the two chief kinds of festivals that exist in the world: the reversal festival and the renewal festival”.

There’s talk […]


L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902)

L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) Illus. Mary Cowles Clark Dover Publications, 1976

Of course when I was young, I would read this any time of year. But as an adult, I revisit it on the holidays. The way that other readers turn to Dickens reliably and festively. This is […]


Margaret Laurence’s The Olden Days Coat (1979)

Margaret Laurence’s The Olden Days Coat (1979) Illus. Muriel Wood Tundra Books, 1998

Every time I read this book I think “surely this time I won’t cry”, but I always do. And it’s not because this is a sad story, but there is something so overwhelmingly touching about it, that I can’t help but sniffle […]