Christmas is a sentimental time of year. In no way is this more evident than in the fact that Richard Paul Evans’s “The Christmas Box” and its many dozen follow-up books sell millions of copies, despite having as much literary value as a stop sign.
See, the stories, which are usually around 1,000 words long but printed in huge type so they take up more pages, are sentimental. They’re sweet. They touch on your emotions.
The same can be said of many GOOD books, too, of course. The problem is that those other books don’t have anything to do with Christmas. Neither do most of Richard Paul Evans’s books, but at least they say, “By Richard Paul Evans, the author of ‘The Christmas Box'” on them, which sort of ties them in.
This year’s book is called “The Dance” (“By Richard Paul Evans, the author of ‘The Christmas Box'”). The following is all true information which I obtained by standing in the bookstore and analyzing the book. It is 30 pages long. Half of those are full-page illustrations by Jonathon Linton, so it’s really only 15 pages long. And on those 15 pages is a story of 680 words (yes, I counted). The book sells for $16. (In contrast, Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” is 1,615 words long, has 61 pages, and costs $12. Also, this column you are reading is 695 words long and is free.)
I am not angered by Richard Paul Evans’s success; on the contrary, I want in on the action. I want to write a book that is as long as one newspaper column and sell it for $16. The two books I HAVE published, each of which contains about 20 columns, sell for only $6.95 each (visit www.ericdsnider.com for details). Obviously, I’m getting screwed.
So here’s my contribution to the Christmas-feel-good-sentimental-emotionally-manipulative genre of literature. Note that I have used the word “Christmas” in the title so as to attract readers.
“The Christmas Christmas”
By Eric David Snider
(The author of “The Christmas Thing That Did Stuff on Christmas”)
Once there was a young family where the Dad worked too much and got surly with his wife and little girl, spending all his time at the office instead of at home, listening to them nag. Then the little girl, who I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said had blue eyes and dimples, got a horrifying disease, which made her dad re-evaluate things. Like he started spending even more time away from home, for fear of catching whatever plague she had picked up.
Just kidding. He started staying home more, and he would come into her bedroom, except when it was quarantined, and read stories to her until the sight of her festering lesions overpowered him and he had to stumble, gagging, out of the room.
Meanwhile, there was an old lady who lived alone who was grumpy and had forgotten the True Meaning of Christmas. She had also forgotten Where She Put Her Purse and What Time “Wheel of Fortune” Comes on. She was grumpy either because her husband died a long time ago, or because her little girl died a long time ago, or because her one true love broke her heart a long time ago. The key phrase is “a long time ago.” Long enough to be over it by now, only except she wasn’t.
The young family came to live with her, even though her house had that old-lady smell about it. The sick little girl, who was adorable and danced like a ballerina except when she was vomiting or having hallucinations, got to be friends with the old lady. Soon they both learned the True Meaning of Christmas, which had to do with buying over-priced books with “Christmas” in the title as gifts for people.
When the old lady finally died, at the very end of the book, she was happy. The family was happy, too, partly because she was dead, but also because their little girl’s repulsive disease had been cured, possibly because she learned the True Meaning of Christmas, but also maybe because she took some aspirin.
(Christmas) The end. (Christmas)
These little stories that manipulate the readers' emotions are so trite they're absurd. Having the cute little girl be sick is always used as a device, but the realities -- such as the vomiting and the crying -- are never mentioned. If she's "sick," it's cute. Keeping with generalities and avoiding specifics keeps it from being too realistic, and therefore doesn't ruin the light and fluffy tone of the book. You'll note that I went way to the other end of the spectrum here.
I interviewed Richard Paul Evans once for The Daily Herald. Seemed like a nice guy. For most of his books now, all the proceeds go to charity, which is why I avoided any references in the column to his "getting rich" off the books. (He did get rich from "The Christmas Box," but most of the subsequent ones have been for charity.) Still, just because something is a for a good cause doesn't mean you should buy it. You can donate money to charities yourself. Don't buy a book unless it's good, period.