It happens every year. First you start seeing Christmas decorations. Then you notice yourself mouthing the words to carols while shopping. You start to get nostalgic, missing family and remembering this gift and that holiday dinner through rose-colored glasses. It’s ho-ho-horrible, a homesickness for something you never really had — who ever had a perfect holiday, anyhow?
In Remembering Christmas, three authors use three gay-themed novellas to show the only things perfect are the ghosts of Christmases past.
It’s funny how we remember special things we got for Christmas at the same time we remember things we didn’t get. In “Away, in a Manger” by Tom Medicino, middle-aged James is empty-handed and empty-hearted. Life as a gay man in New York was good once. There was always another party, another summer on Fire Island, another trip with Ernst, James’ lover and mentor.
But Ernst is now an old man with fusty habits, the summer house is a tired tradition that needs to be retired and James wants … something. Then, while on his way to spend Christmas with his family, car trouble strands him in a tiny town where his future is hiding, covered in snow.
Remember wishing for that one special thing to show up beneath the tree? No matter how old you are, it’s hard not to have a specific gift in mind when you see piles of gifts, and in “A Christmas to Remember” by Frank Anthony Polito, all Jack Paterno wants is a boyfriend — specifically, Kirk, his pal from high school. There’s much history between them, many mutual friends and boyhood memories in common, but even though Jack is pretty sure Kirk’s gay, Kirk isn’t so sure himself.
Sometimes, lost love feels keener at Christmastime. When Neil broke up with Theo just before the holidays, Theo decided that he might as well do what he said he’d never do, and go home for Christmas. But in “Missed Connections” by Michael Salvatore, a chance encounter with an old love becomes an odd gift.
Though my mother told me not to judge a book by its cover, I have to admit that I did. This book looked like it was going to be a fun read.
I should’ve listened to mom.
Remembering Christmas is fatally dark-mooded. It pouts and mutters, feels sorry for itself, gets morosely introspective and wallows in pity page after page after page. There are occasional bursts of good tidings of great joy, but the melancholy and angst overpowers them. I think I could have handled that in one story, but the similar theme of all three tales made me want to drown my sorrows in spiked egg nog.
If you’re single, hating it and want some paper commiseration, then this book will be good company this season. But if you’re looking for a holiday book that makes you feel all Christmas-y, this one is a perfect disaster.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.