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Book review: The Firflake - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Book review: The Firflake [Oct. 17th, 2010|12:45 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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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.

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/206116.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: talekyn
2010-10-18 03:46 am (UTC)
Thank you for giving the book a chance, and for delivering the honest review you promised. I know the book doesn't work for everyone, and I appreciate how long you spent explaining why the book doesn't work for you. Constructive criticism like this is valuable to me. I may not necessarily agree with you, but I see the point you're making and you have given me food for thought for any future edition.

And yes -- my greatest embarrassment with the book IS the 9 (actually, I think it's 10) pages of acknowledgments. That will change at some point.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2010-10-18 05:47 pm (UTC)

2nd thanks from me

As per my reply in your journal, your grace under fire is much appreciated. I very nearly opted for silence, but finally preferred to (a) take you at your word and (b) remember that I would prefer to honest criticism to silence as well, if and when I get a book out in the world. (Or for that matter, now, if anyone cares to have a go at that which I release into the public sphere.)
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