Ah, the holidays: a time brimming with food, family, and good fortune. Or, if you are a writer (apparently), a time drunk with divorce, destruction, and emotional devastation. We jest (sort of), but we were surprised to note the depth of darkness that ran through the many submissions we received for this theme call. We read this as the result of the way expectation and hope can rub so ruefully against reality. Sylvia Plath captured this beautifully in “The Bell Jar”: I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised but never came to pass. Who are we to argue? To help wash that disenchantment down, however, we bring to your holiday table electric storytelling, strong voices, and some exciting new writers.
For our fiction line-up, we start with Diana Clarke’s “The Great New Zealand Narrative Which Also Happens to be a Musing on My Parents’ Holiday Divorce,” and Michael Monson’s “The Growth of Hearts and Other Lies.” These two marvelous stories deal with the uncertainty of emotions during divorce, one from the daughter’s perspective and one from the father’s perspective. “Friday Night Dinner” by Laurie Jacobs was a story initially submitted to our Change issue but we decided to save it until now since the piece better suits our Holiday issue—we’ve grown to love it even more after letting it steep on the burner.
Our creative nonfiction offerings this month include Wendy Fontaine’s tongue-in-cheek-titled essay “The Most Wonderful Time”, a brilliant narrative peeling through the layers of family secrets and hardships during the holiday season. Her voice is lush, intimate, masterful, and cuts sharply, whereas the narrator in our second nonfiction piece in this collection gives us the feeling of listening to her story with our feet propped up in front of a fireplace. So we leave you there, ending on a little something bright with Luisa Reyes’s “Santa’s Wish List”, which illuminates the human good that is possible during the holiday season, leaving us assured that there is still such a thing as Christmas magic, even if it comes in the form of a mall Santa.
So pour some eggnog (and spike it with some bourbon, if you so chose), and get ready for the holidays. They arrive every year, whether we want them to or not, and we hope our digital issue brings you just the right amount and kind of joy and thankfulness you need.