White Christmas: The Story of a Song with Estate €12.99i COO.


The Virago Book of Christmas iVirago €14.99 0..

Christmas is the time of year when we all gather around the log fire and listen to a wiseacre telling a story to gladden the heart or chill the bones. Actually, I don’t know anyone who’s ever done that but the image remains a lasting one. Perhaps this was the spirit behind the vast and inevitably patchy Virago Book of Christmas.

Casting the net wide to gather together the old seasonal thoughts of Rosa Luxembourg, St Bridget of Sweden and Emily Dickinson alongside the contemporary musings of Sue Townsend, Jenny Eclair and Clare Boylan was clearly a labour of love for Michelle Lovric, but one that was only ever going to end in a rich selection with a musty aftertaste. Thumbs-up go to Freya Stark’s vision of a Christmas abroad and George Sand’s Yuletide invitation to Flaubert.

However, for a more focused and invigorating tale of Christmases past, New York writer Jody Rosen gets the last mince pie for her history of Irving Berlin’s classic slab of warm schmaltz, ‘White Christmas’. Though her foreword contains the odd clunky note - such as her


P-P HARTNETT Rock’n'Roll Suicide (Sceptre €14.99i

Crosby and co make you think of ones you used to know

belief that Berlin archivists may be in full awareness of Bing Crosby’s crooning version but some haven’t a single clue that their man was the writer of the tune - the whole is absolutely engrossing.

And though Rosen dissects the song brilliantly, if at times over-technically, the joy of this book is in her contextual details. It may be a standard proviso for great artists, but their triumphs are so often shrouded in tragedy. For Irving Berlin, it was the death of his son when only 24 days old (yep, he was born on 1 December) that leaves the reader gawping with the significance. Berlin penned the song a decade later while spending his remaining Christmas Days visiting the grave of his baby.

As well as the personal, there is the political resonances such as the rise of the American Jewish songwriter and the domination of Tin Pan Alley where Berlin’s peers there, such as Gershwin, Porter and Hart, all reigned supreme before wartime made them seem a sickly taste in many mouths. But there are as many who wilt at the dark undertones, themes of regret and sense of mourning which lift this song up way beyond the average seasonal goo. There has to be a very good reason why everyone from Destiny’s Child to Doris Day and the Flaming Lips to Fats Domino have taken the song under their wings. This book tells it all.

(Brian Donaldson)

poridering: yes. fans do strange and often unpleasant things cut of C‘iG‘.’OIIOl‘i and the stars in question can be abused. Main and fragiie,


116 THE LIST ‘2 Dix; 232/ 2 .i'ar‘ .2 ,.,;:

International rock god Max is a st;Cky amalgam of contradicton Superstar traits. There's the self-bel-ef and blinp egotism of pop heretic hero Robbie Williams. and the tortured introspectiOn and intellectualismg of disappeared Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards. Max has just come to the end of a grueling tOur when he vanishes. Shaves off his hair and decides to top himself. Of c0urse. he resolutely bottles it and Subseduentn hides away. before door- stepping his obsesswe fans. in particular a frumpy obsessive called Angela.

P-P Hartne t annotates this volume teiiing of exhaust we research carried out to get into the heads of rock stars and their adoring obsessives. The disappointing thing 18 that his sweeping concIuSions take rougth five minutes of

Too often this feels like a whole coiicept album of ClICl‘eS with everyone from tr.pIe-barrei monikered PR8 to Max's uptight parents being thorOughly two-din‘enSIOiial; cn!y Max and Angela are spared.

And the lyrics? \i’Vritten down they iust IOOK crap. Jeff Noon came close to encapSuiating the vibrancy and fluidity Of intiSiC in his futurist'C fable Need/e if? the Groove and even David Toop's cerebrai enthusiasms on the energy 0‘ music are more evocative of its spirit than many passages l‘ere.

Rock 'r: 'Ro/I Surcrde is controversial fer sure. Hartnett's gory sketches of abuse are yiVid and it may even be ‘4 REAL'. as Richey Manic once put it. but whether at is any good as fiction is Questionable. :Mark Robertson:

Shelf life

Classic nove/s revisited. This issue: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Published 45 years ago What’s the story Dr Seuss' perennial fax/Ourite. narrated in the good doc‘s characteristically inventive rhyming couplets. is the tale of a lonely grump of indeterminate species with a heart. two Sizes too small. We find him watching. seething. from his cave on Mount Crumpit as the town of Who-Ville prepares for the holiday season. After 53 years of enduring this ‘NOISE NOISE NOISE NOISE'. the Grinch resolves to act. and descends on the town. armed With his Santa sack. determined to wreck Christmas for the residents.

Key moment YOu can't have a Christmas tale Without a redemptive ending. and when the Grinch realises the Whos are celebrating Christmas even Without their presents. his heart grows three sizes. The green meanie then plunges into the festivities with gusto. even carving the turkey himself.

Postcript While Seuss' tale recently enjoyed a reSurgence of interest c0urtesy of the Jim Carrey-starring film. ChuCk Jones' animated vei'Sion was much truer tO the whimsical appeal of the original picture poem. The film was narrated by horror icon Boris Karloff. while the Grinch's song was Sung by Thurl RavenSCroft. better known as the grrreat voice of Kelloggs Frosties' Tony the Tiger.

First line test 'Every Who Down in Who-

Viile Liked Christmas a lot . . . But the Grinch Who lived Just NOrth of Who- Ville Did NOT!‘

iAllan Radcliffel