AUTHOR’S NOTE: We last encountered Truman Capote’s short stories in this column this past February. https://www.queerscifi.com/truman-capotes-queer-tales-of-fantasy-jeff-baker-boogieman-in-lavender/ We close out the year with a look at his most famous short tale and another story for Christmas.
A good many readers first encounter Truman Capote’s story “A Christmas Memory” in school, in their textbooks or possibly in one of the many fine recordings of the story by Geraldine Paige or others. A bittersweet recollection of several incidents in the narrator’s childhood, probably based on the Gay author’s own youth as well as on Miss Sook Faulk, Capote’s cousin who seems to have been a mother figure to the budding author. Capote was the barely-closeted celebrity author who mined his Southern childhood for literary ideas but may be best remembered as the writer of “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” He turns to another Christmas memory in his story “One Christmas.”
In “One Christmas,” Buddy is happily living with his cousin Sook in Alabama when his estranged Father contacts him and tells him he is to spend Christmas in New Orleans with him. Young Buddy doesn’t want to go, he barely knows his Father or Mother and has been living with other family very happily.
Sook tells him “It’s the Lord’s will.” And she tantalizes him with the prospect of seeing snow. Not a likely possibility as “New Orleans is even hotter” than Alabama.
Buddy and his Father do not hit it off. His father has a house and a car but it is not Buddy’s home. And the man does not feel like his Father or family. As Buddy says “indeed he seemed to charm most people—everybody but me.”
The visits to his Father’s friends to show Buddy off embarrasses Buddy who thinks of himself as “a country boy.” He finds the New Orleans food too spicy “…just thinking about it gave me heartburn…I hankered after biscuits right from the stove and milk fresh from the cows and homemade molasses straight from the bucket.”
Buddy’s Father makes his living as a gigolo, marrying rich older women. And, to his credit, he does try to get close to Buddy, buying him an expensive toy airplane when Buddy says the gifts around the tree are from Santa and not his Father.
Altogether, Buddy is happy to go home to Alabama and Sook.
The two versions of Buddy in “One Christmas” and “A Christmas Memory” are supposed to be the same person is left somewhat vague, although there are similarities. Capote is not known for his series characters. Doubtless Capote put some of himself and his experiences into both stories and characters. But while “Christmas Memory” is sweetly warm and sadly nostalgic, “One Christmas” is darker, more pessimistic and dismal. Buddy’s father tries to make his Christmas visit warm and wonderful. He fails. While the story is excellent, probably its downbeat tone has kept it from being the favorite that “A Christmas Memory” is.
We’ll let Capote have the last word here, speaking of happier times:
“Of course there is a Santa Claus. It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do. So the Lord has spread the task among us all. That’s why everybody is Santa Claus. I am. You are. Even your cousin Billy Bob. Now go to sleep. Count stars. Think of the quietest thing. Like snow.”
Jeff Baker blogs about reading (and writing) SciFi, Fantasy and Horror on or around the thirteenth of every month. He is a regular contributor to the RoM/Mantic Reads e-zine and his fiction and non-fiction regularly get rejected from many other markets. He posts fiction on his blog https://authorjeffbaker.com/ and wastes time on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063555483587
He and his husband Darryl wish readers all the best for Christmas and the New Year.