The Robert Benchley Society
announces its "top ten" list of short humorous holiday readings.
Following each entry is a brief description and a quotation from the piece.
"A Christmas Garland of Books,"
What better gift for that hard-to-buy-for person than a book?
"...A man's whole life could be changed by such a fortuitous slip of the rubber..."
"Why I Love Christmas,"
Blue collar Baltimore meets rainbow colored Provincetown when John Waters takes
on American commercialized Christmas traditions
"...Why hasn't Bloomingdale's or Tiffany's tried a fancy Santa. Deathly pale,
this never-too-thin-or-too-rich Kris Kringle, dressed in head-to-toe
unstructured, over-size Armani, could pose on a throne, bored and elegant,
and every so often deign to let a rich little brat sit near his lap before
dismissing his wishes with a condescending "Oh, darling, you don't really
want that, do you?..."
"A Bum's Christmas,"
H. L. Mencken
A jaundiced look at Christmas charity from another Baltimore writer.
"Despite all the snorting against them in works of divinity, it has always
been my experience that infidels--or freethinkers, as they usually prefer to
call themselves--are a generally estimable class of men, with strong overtones
of the benevolent and even of the sentimental. This was certainly true,
for example, of Leopold Bortsch, Totsaufer [customers' man] for the
Scharnhorst Brewery, in Baltimore, forty-five years ago..."
"Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street
Kid" from In God we Trust: All Others Pay Cash, Jean Shepherd
Great American original made into the movie The Christmas Story.
"...You'll shoot your eye out kid..."
"Some Damnable Errors About Christmas" from A Christmas Garland, Sir Max Beerbohm.
Hyper-orthodox friends--of which we have many--will enjoy this parody of
G. K. Chesterton: but be warned, graduates of the public schools will likely think
it is in earnest.
"...as seekers after truth we should be compelled to regard with a dark
suspicion, and to check with the most anxious care, every fact that he told us
about isosceles triangles..."
"The Three Wise Guys,"
Like the classic John Ford Western Three Godfathers, it puts three bad
(but not horribly bad) men in the roles of the Magi, with humorous/sentimental effects.
"...Miss Clarabelle Cobb comes of very religious people back in Akron, Ohio, and she is
taught from childhood that rum is a terrible thing, and personally I think it is
myself, except in cocktails..."
(7) "Joyeux Noël, Mr. Durning,"
Will be be enjoyed by anyone who has ever received and gift which was also a "project."
"...the joli cadeau de Noël had arrived at my home five days
"The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry
Perhaps we stretch the meaning of humor with this inclusion, but we recommend it nevertheless.
Click on the title to get the full text --it's in the public domain.
"...The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who
brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving
Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly
bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication..."
"The Office Party,"
A gem from the days before political correctness and ubiquitous lawsuits took all the fun
out of the holidays
"...The annual Office Party starts along about noon on December 24 and ends two or
three months later, depending how long it takes the boss to find out who set fire to his
wastebasket, threw the water cooler out of the window, and betrayed Miss O'Malley in the men's
Done in the Manner, if Not the Spirit, of Dickens.
"...And as Tiny Tim might say in speaking of Christmas afternoon as an
institution, 'God help us, every one.'"