Books

The Oz Man's Fine New Christmas Story


Matchless, A Christmas Story

Publisher: William Morrow
Price: $19.99
Author: Gregory Maguire
Format: Hardcover
Publication Date: 2009-10
Amazon

One of the great times in my life was the ten years during which I read to my daughter Julia every night before her bedtime. (My wife enjoyed the same with our daughter Alice.) Along with many other picture books, fairy tales, poetry collections, even The Hobbit and the first Harry Potter book (one was enough for me), we made our way through all the Frank L. Baum Oz books. Wildly uneven, each Oz tale had its own treasures, and we didn’t think even one of them a total dud.

Gregory Maguire, of course, is the new standard bearer for the Oz kingdom, with his ongoing series of “Wicked” novels. (Here’s my PopMatters review of the latest in the series: A Lion Among Men.)

Maquire has made a career retelling, or, more accurately, re-imagining great stories, such as his novel-length versions of Snow White and Cinderella. He can also concoct his own strange brews, as he did with the scintillating Lost.

Now he’s written Matchless, A Christmas Story, a brief “reillumination”, as he calls it, of “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen. The bleak story of the poor little Match Girl who imagines she sees her dead grandmother as she freezes to death is left largely intact (though it’s her mother she sees here), but is framed by the story of Frederick, a poor little boy who also comes close to dying from the elements, but is saved by the Match Girl’s guiding spirit. He goes on to live a somewhat improved existence when his mother marries the Little Match Girl’s father and their fortunes improve.

Matchless is a clever rescue of the Andersen story, bookending its sadness with a more hopeful tale, and, by changing the time frame from New Year’s Eve to Christmas Eve, making it much more appropriate for young children.

With many somewhat clumsy but effective illustrations by the author himself (Maguire’s usual illustrator, Douglas Smith, being perhaps too dark for the purpose), Matchless was written to be read aloud and is the perfect length for a single bedtime reading.

I'll keep my copy and look forward to reading it to Julia's children someday.

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image