Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

A Christmas MemoryA Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory is a short, beautifully written story by one of my favorite authors. It's about the relationship between a woman in the latter years of her life and a boy just starting out. It is, according to the book jacket notes, “based on Capote's own boyhood in rural Alabama in the 1930's.” The edition I read was illustrated by Beth Peck. The pictures are as wonderful as the text.

Here is how Capote introduces the relationship between the woman and the boy:

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.

Together they gather ingredients for fruitcakes which they share with people as diverse as President Roosevelt, some missionaries to Borneo, and the little knife grinder who comes through town twice a year. They also go into the woods to find a Christmas tree and later fly kites together. It is their relationship that is important, not what they do. It comes out in the way they speak to each other, dance together, and deal with the other people in the house, who often think they act inappropriately.

The book covers their relationship until the boy goes away. Some people, my wife among them, think the book should have stopped a page or so before it did. But what is happy can't be as beautiful without what is sad and it is all part of the memory. The book only took about an hour to read and it had the power to bring out my own Christmas memories. That was an hour well spent.

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