Brett Josef Grubisic (Vancouver)
“Sure, there’s memorable Christmas reading on my book shelves. For darkly comic, turn to Augusten Burroughs’ You Better Not Cry. And if he’s not exactly Dickens, David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice is a new classic for a reason.
“Better still: Derek McCormack’s Christmas Days. It’s a non-fiction side project by a unique fabulist whose usual miniature queer excursions into bygone circuses and sideshows are disturbing and funny in equal part. His book answers one question: What are the things that make Christmas Christmas in Canada? But with his signature style—dry, witty, macabre, surreal—he studies everything from parades and Santalands to reindeer and Christmas corsages with a decidedly oddball perspective.
“Researched but delightfully funny and weird, consider McCormack’s investigation of fake snow’s history: from ground glass flakes (‘Glass snow could cut. Hands. Paws’), cotton (‘Decorators recommended cotton. Fire chiefs didn’t’), and powdered ammonia (‘It whitened trees, smelled strong’), to asbestos (!) and snow in a can (‘It’s made of stearic acid, from cows. Boil cow carcasses and jelly rises. It’s crammed into cans, then perfumed. To smell snowy’).
“If you’re reacting poorly to saccharine Xmas programming and the overall consumerist frenzy, Christmas Days is a tart antidote.”
A UBC prof, Brett‘s fiction includes the novels The Age of Cities and This Location of Unknown Possibilities. His current novel project is set in a small BC mill town in late 1980; From Up River, and One Night Only tells the up and down tale of two sets of teenage siblings who form a New Wave cover band.