Monday, December 10, 2007

Short Story Monday- Stuart MacLean: Polly Anderson's Christmas Party

Short Story Monday

Until now all of my short story Monday posts have referred to stories I've been able to find online. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a free version of this one anywhere. But, the good news is, I did find it here at for a mere $4.88 as an mp3.

Yes, it's another audio story, but it is a good one. In fact, it's become another one of those holiday traditions for me. Odd since it took me two Christmases to even give it a chance.

My first exposure to the track was on a fantastic little Christmas album originally released back in 2000 by Nettwerk simply entitled Christmas Songs (I love Matthew Ryan's "Little Drummer Boy" and Kendall Payne's "O Come O Come Emmanuel"). However, even the simple name of that cd was a bit of a misnomer, as the last track wasn't even a song at all: it was Stuart Maclean's 23 minute long tale, "Polly Anderson's Christmas Party."

I can't tell you how many times I got through just the first three or four minutes of Maclean's story only to skip back to the first song, bored almost completely out of my Christmas tree. Looking back, I had a couple misconceptions about Maclean: 1. That he was smug. 2. That he wasn't funny.

I think I drew much of the first impression from the audience on the track (yes, it's recorded live). At first I wasn't finding him at all funny, yet the audience seemed to be in polite stitches throughout. And after each burst Maclean seemed to stammer and get just a little bit louder, almost sounding proud of his story-telling prowess. To be honest I found the whole thing a little nauseating- Maclean throwing lame jokes about some poor old saps named Dave and Morley, while the audience chuckled on, familiar with the characters through listening to their precious CBC Radio- which at the time I thought was too highbrow, have since enjoyed, and am now disappointed in for a slew of brand new reasons, but that's for another post. Anyway, I felt like an outsider and proud of it.

Also, one of the first jokes to come out of the story was a bit of a dud - something about a "galaxy of bureaucratic horror." No, I quickly decided, this guy's humour is just too pretentious. I quickly grew to love Gavin Crawford's impression of him on This Hour Has 22 Minutes (though I'm sure he'll say it was all out of respect- wink, wink).

After many, many complete listens, I'll recant those early prejudices. Stuart Maclean doesn't seem smug at all. In fact, his stammer reminds me a lot of Jimmy Stewart. And as for being too pretentious, when I finally listened a bit further, I realized that the story takes aim at that sort of crowd (Martha Stewart takes a few shots) and how they seem to want others to feel inadequate- especially around the holidays. Living in the North, where alternative methods to store-shopping abound, I can't tell you how many Party-Lite, Princess House, etc parties my wife has been invited to to buy expensive knick-knacks designed for showing-off (under the guise of "I'm your friend, now buy something from me"). Maclean finally hooked me with a reference to Leleike Crystal. I have know idea what that is (or if I'm even spelling it right), but neither did Dave, the hero of the story, and that's what endured him to me.

The plot, in fact, revolves around said crystal. Dave finds himself in charge of the eggnog at Polly Anderson's Christmas party and is to pour the rum into the Leleike crystal for the adult bowl and bring the glass crystal to the kids. And while you might be right about the outcome, it doesn't prevent the story from being hilarious.

While I still feel that the wind-up is unfortunately dull and unnecessary, I've long since forgiven it. I highly recommend downloading it (and being patient).

(What short stories have you read lately? Leave links to your short story posts below...)


Jodie Robson said...

Lalique crystal - upmarket glass ornaments, sometimes antique (began early 20th C.) but they still make it.

Haven't tried audio stories, I think they might send me to sleep.

I wrote a Short Story Monday post too:
(still got to learn how to do links in comments, sorry!)

John Mutford said...

Geraniumcat: Thanks for the correction! And I totally understand your reluctance to audio stories, as Barbara pointed out in last week's SSM post, it's hard not to multitask when listening and then you end up missing it. However, I had this cd in the car for a while so, my only diversion was the road. I may have run down a few folks, and I do apologize.

To add a link, the way you did it is just fine, but if you want to do it the other way, here's an example, all you need to do is replace the regular brackets with the angle brackets (the ones that look like "less than" and "greater than signs):

(a href="")Geraniumcat's Short Story Post(/a)

Geraniumcat's Short Story Post

Hope this helps!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have to admit to be a longtime fan of MacLean's Dave and Morley stories. In fact, I have two of his cds of stories, which are great on long car trips (where you cannot over multi-task).

Polly Anderson's Christmas Party is one of my favourites, as Dave Cooks the Turkey gets overplayed in my opinion.

Melwyk said...

I agree with Barbara; I really like Polly Anderson's Christmas Party, but not so much Dave cooks the Turkey.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I'm open to them now that this one has endeared itself to me.

Melanie: I haven't heard that one, but you and Barbara certainly have me curious.

Stephanie said...

I really need to read a good Christmas story to get me into the holiday season. So far, I haven't found one. Maybe I will look for this one!!

I'm late this week, but I did post a short short Monday!!

1morechapter said...

The second half of the Binchy book is reviewed here

raidergirl3 said...

Love Dave and Morley! the first time I head MacLean telling a story on CBC, I didn't know it was fiction - I didn't know what was going on. It was the one where Morley stole the meat form the grocery store.
I've listened to his CD and it is wonderful. I gave my Dad a book last year, must get it for the holidays.
I might get a short story up tomorrow. This Monday feels like it has gone on forever already, one more day won't hurt it.
Hey, don't dis the Princess House, my friend sells it so I have lots! But I've heard those mail order house parties are very popular in the North.

John Mutford said...

Stephanie: Yeah, while there are loads of short stories to read for Halloween, there seems to be far less for Christmas.

3M: Thanks for the link.

Raidergirl: A friend of mine went on an Arctic cruise this summer on which Stuart MacLean was one of the guest speakers (and was apparently seasick the entire time).

Ha! I knew I was probably stepping on someone's toes with the Princess House/ Party-Lite rant. Sorry. I guess it's just overkill. And I'm really not against it when people have the stuff for aesthetic appreciation- it's those that have it merely to impress others that bug me.

Jodie Robson said...

Thanks for the help over links! And the answer to the question about hosting was yes, be happy to, if you'll tell me what I need to do!

John Mutford said...

Ooops, I did see that response and meant to reply. There's not much to hosting. Basically just ask people to leave their links to their short story posts in your comments. You could mess around with Mr. Linky if you're really ambitious, but with the few participants it's probably not worth the trouble. You might want to give your readers the heads up before Monday in case they too want to participate.

Jodie Robson said...

Okay, will do! I'll decide what I'm going to read and make an Announcement (possibly in full caps). Interesting that I'm now proselytizing on behalf of the Short Story despite my reservations about it as an art form.