Is the Coronavirus stifling your Holly Jolly this year? Waiting in line to be tested, avoiding large family gatherings, and settling for Zoom instead of real hugs? Not exactly comfy-cozy?
It’s time to recall the words of painter Dorothea Tanning: “Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity.”
Best yet, the arts are readily available, no social distancing required — as dancer Twyla Tharp put it, “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”
Given that many of us won’t be leaving home, consider the offerings of Ben Mankiewicz, William Sydney Porter (pen name: O. Henry) and a few select others for the holiday lock-downs.
Mankiewicz, whose family is inextricably woven in Hollywood lore (grandson of screenwriter, Herman and nephew of Joe, acclaimed writer, director, and producer), is the current lead host on Turner Classic Movies.
Inaugurated in 1994, TCM is a commercial-free, classic movie channel that is the darling of the film community. Mankiewicz started with the channel in 2003 and took on his current role when the much beloved, original host, Robert Osborne, died in March 2017.
Holiday movies this year on TCM include the vintage (A Christmas Carol, The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas in Connecticut) as well as more contemporary works.
TCM offers original programming which blends seamlessly with the movie treasures: the entire package radiates a snug, welcoming spirit.
“There is nothing like the relationship Turner Classic has with its fans,” Mankiewicz told The Los Angeles Times. “They say, ‘ thank you for getting me through this illness,’ or ‘thank you for the last four months of my mother’s life. She was sick and we watched movies every day. It was the best four months we ever spent.’ We hear that story again and again and again.”
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO also provide seasonal and non-seasonal programming, but none offer the personal touch or educational features found on Turner.
Hallmark started its Christmas Countdown in October and it always attracts a large audience. The network is a major player at this time of year, but it’s hardly sugar-free.
The holidays have always produced endearing literary sparks — dozens of short stories and novels linked to the celebrations have been written.
Critics have compiled “best” lists for this time of year: Thanksgiving titles include A Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote, An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, and The Ice Storm by Rick Moody.
Christmas stories, an embarrassment of riches, include A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (who actually wrote dozens of Christmas tales), A Visit from St. Nicholas (better known as ‘Twas TNight before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore, How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, and A Christmas Visitor by Truman Capote — this is just a tiny sampling of what is available.
Aside from Dickens, the writer who composed the most fully realized Christmas narratives was O. Henry, whose métier was the short story.
In his tragically brief 47-year life, O. Henry wrote 600 short pieces, which have been described as “made-to-measure.” That is, they are pithy accounts which traffic in coincidence, metaphor, mistaken identity, small acts of bravery in the face of adversity — the stories are often humorous and they almost always have a twist at the end.
- Henry set a handful of his works in holiday surroundings —Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen, Christmas by Injunction, Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking,and his masterpiece, The Gift of the Magi.
There is no story which captures the meaning of Christmas better than Magi. Originally published in 1905, this deceptively simple yarn tells of how love and selflessness overcome poverty and materialism.
“The magi, as you know, were wise men,” O. Henry wrote. “They invented the art of giving Christmas presents…here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest…they are the magi.”
- Henry’s death was caused by tuberculosis – his passing contained a flair reminiscent of his writing. His reported last words were to an attendant: he asked her to open the window shades, saying, “I don’t want to go home in the dark.”
Footnote: If you have a Holiday Favorites’ List, please send it to us and we will publish it.