Writer Wednesday: Favorite Holiday Books

Our Writer Wednesday assignment for November is “Tell us your favorite holiday books.” That’s a WW Novemberno-brainer for me: In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. What, that doesn’t sound like the holidays to you? Well, four of the five stories that Jean Shepherd turned into my favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story, came from that collection. (The fifth came from Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and other disasters.)

“Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid” gave the movie its core, driven by Ralphie’s passionate desire for a “Red Ryder BB gun with a special Red Ryder sight and a compass in the stock with a sundial.” We hear about the Old Man’s battle with the furnace, Ralphie’s lofty expectations for his “What I Want For Christmas” theme, his visit to Santa Claus, Aunt Clara’s abominable bunny costume, and his broken glasses. I never lusted after an air rifle, but I sure can identify with the theme writing and the broken glasses.

The episode of the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, with its high anticipation and deep betrayal as Ralphie discovers the true meaning of the secret message, comes from “The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or the Asp Strikes Again.” The arrival and demise of the notorious leg lamp is described in “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art.” Ralphie’s epic battle with the neighborhood bully plays out in “Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil.” (Fun fact for fans of the film: Scut Farkas character was added for the movie, with Grover Dill demoted to toady. Scut did appear in another story, “Scut Farkas and the Murderous Mariah” in the
Wanda Hickey collection.) The destruction of the Christmas turkey is adapted from “The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds,” also in Wanda Hickey, in which the neighbors’ dogs destroyed the Parkers’ Easter ham.

All of Jean Shepherd’s writing was sharp and hilarious. My copies are old paperbacks, with small print and brittle yellow pages, that once belonged to my mother, who introduced me to Shepherd. I remember reading the Bumpus hounds’ story aloud to my late husband when he was ill, interrupted by frequent laughter. (The two of us also watched the movie every year, a habit I have continued.)

Writing this piece has made me think about the complexities of weaving several stories together into A Christmas Storya film that has become a Christmas classic. The five stories have been reprinted in one volume, A Christmas Story: The Book that Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film. I want to reread them (and admire Shepherd’s skill in adapting them) without struggling with those old paperbacks (I actually have new glasses on order; they might handle the small print, but they won’t do much for the brittle yellow pages or cracked binding), so I’m downloading the Christmas Story edition to my Kindle to reread during the holidays.


Do you have a holiday book you love and reread? Visit some other Wednesday Writers, Tamra Baumann, Lauren Christopher, Natalie Meg Evans, Jean Willett, and Sharon Wray,
and discover their holiday favorites.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sharon Wray
    Nov 11, 2015 @ 07:24:57

    Kay, I honestly had no idea that movie came from four different stories. And I’ve never even heard of that book and I’m a librarian! Shame on me. 🙂
    Now I’m off to borrow it at the library. There are still six weeks until Christmas!

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  2. Jean Willett
    Nov 11, 2015 @ 08:05:11

    Kay, I loved The Christmas Story and now to know that they came from a book is sending me off to find a copy. Thanks for sharing this. What fun to find another author who writes with humor and sas. 🙂

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    • Kay Hudson
      Nov 11, 2015 @ 08:31:58

      I couldn’t guess how many times I’ve read Jean Shepherd’s books, but that began years before the movie was made. And I’ve absolutely watched the movie at least once every Christmas season.

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  3. tamrabaumann
    Nov 11, 2015 @ 10:20:09

    Wow! I had no idea who Jean Shepherd was until today, and what a fantastic movie based on her writings! Loved this post, Kay. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Kay Hudson
      Nov 11, 2015 @ 10:23:44

      Despite the spelling, Shepherd was a guy–and a pretty cantankerous one at that. But I’m delighted to spread the word. Unfortunately, he died in 1999, but he left a lot of gems behind.

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  4. Deborah Hughes
    Nov 12, 2015 @ 12:46:50

    My favorite holiday book is “The Joyous Season” by Patrick Dennis, the man who wrote “Auntie Mame”. Written in 1964, it’s a really funny book and hasn’t really aged in 60 years. it’s written in first-person by a young boy whose world gets up-ended when his parents separate over the holidays and their crazy wealthy families get involved. May not sound humorous but…it’s one of my favorites!

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    • Kay Hudson
      Nov 12, 2015 @ 19:45:40

      Deborah, I LOVE Patrick Dennis. I have a stack of his books on an upper shelf, including (I just checked) an old paperback copy of The Joyous Season, which honestly I don’t remember at all. I may have to reread it now. I also have (as yet unread) a biography of Dennis called Uncle Mame which I will get to one of these days. Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. Wendy LaCapra
    Nov 12, 2015 @ 13:27:51

    Love it, Kay! That movie is the best. I will have to check out the stories that inspired the film!!

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