The Firflake: a well-intended Christmas present
Christmas stories — especially deliberate Christmas stories — offer even an experienced writer every chance to fall into the trap of writing didactic and saccharine fables in place of real stories. For a novice, they are a treacherous territory indeed. I think the following passage will give you a pretty good idea of whether or not Anthony R. Cardno's venture into that realm of sentimentality and miracles might work for you.
"'I am not a superstitious man,' Nicholas replied. 'There are people who would say I am magic myself. The three young men of this family, I saved from drowning. There are rumors in villages miles from here which say I raised them from the dead.'
"'Did you?' I asked.
"'I know of no man short of the Son of God who could, and I am not he.' He paused, exhaling a cloud with every thought-filled breath. 'Your people's magic is that they hide well, and know how to travel quicker than we, and that you live longer. You are different from us in only the subtlest of ways. I don't always understand your people, but I accept you. These are hard times, and people fear what is different. So they exaggerate the subtleties and suddenly your people have horns or wings, or serve a darker god. I know better. We are all of us God's creatures, and loved by Him.' And then, Nicholas sighed heavily."
As you can see, Cardno's Christmas story is one of magic, aspiring towards myth, but with a hard-to-swallow side-order of Relevance and Allegory.
In the proverbial nutshell, The FirFlake: A Christmas Story is the story of Saint Nicholas himself (better known to those of us on the left side of the Atlantic as Santa Claus) and of the origins of his annual pilgrimage to the homes of each and every child in the world on Christmas Eve.
It is a children's fable and, maybe, below that a story about the telling of stories. But for me, if the surface tale doesn't hold my attention I have little interest in delving for the subtext.
And I'm afraid I'm not going to do so for The FirFlake ...
The truth is, I don't want to write this review.
There, I said it. I don't want to write it because I believe that Anthony R. Cardno is a nice man (we've interacted online) and, more, that this slim volume is a labour of love on his part. Worse, The Firflake is a self-published book and if I can't promote such efforts, I'd just as soon pass them over in silence. I doubt my opinion matters much to the likes of Gregory Maguire, but it might have some noticeable effect on smaller fish in the literary seas.
On the other hand, Mr. Cardno took the time and expense to send me his chapbook and so I feel duty-bound to take him at his word and treat his work seriously.
So. Let's talk about fairy tales, about Christmas stories and about why it's so hard to do them well.
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