WRITERS AND CHRISTMAS – GWEN GRANT
One of my all-time favourite books is THE DUD AVOCADO’ by Elaine Dundy and a passage that resonated with me was when heroine, Sally Jay Gorce, remembered a Christmas vacation spent largely in a Library where people kept mistaking her for a Librarian. To be a Librarian was
her ultimate horror but that was where she finally found herself.
Over the years of working with children, I have been so impressed by Librarians and the way they rise to every occasion. They dress up, ferry people about, meet trains, provide quiet places for workshops and a hundred and one other things, and I have often wondered if they knew what they were getting into when they started their careers. When I was a girl, I used to want to be a Librarian more than anything and flick through Library cards and stamp books, so I made cards for my own books and stamped them with my Lilliput Printing Set when I took them off the shelf to read!
December of 1961 was when brilliant poet, Anne Sexton, wrote a prose piece called ‘The Last Believer’, memories of past Christmas mornings when Anne, her sister and mother made belief they saw Saint Nick. It always feels a privilege to read this difficult and complex woman’s work.
Then E.M. Delafield’s ‘Diary of a Provincial Lady’ where the Christmas day of 1929 is ‘festive, but exhausting’ and the family ate ‘turkey and plum-pudding cold in the evening to give the servants a rest.’ My plan exactly minus the plum-pudding and the servants.
In ‘The Dud Avocado’ Elaine Dundy prefaces one chapter with words from Tennessee Williams’ ‘Camino Real’ - ‘Make voyages. Attempt them. That’s all there is.’ That’s what I’m doing just now, doing a final edit and rewrite of a book that’s been waiting for ages and is, I suppose, what most writers are doing most of the time.
An exceptionally lovely short article by Ernest Hemingway was written about Christmas in Paris 1923. It opens with, ‘Paris with the snow falling. Paris with the big charcoal braziers outside the cafes, glowing red,’ and closes with, ‘It was their first Christmas away from their own land.’ Published by The Toronto Star Weekly.
Happy journeying, everyone.