Monday, December 21, 2009

Reader's Diary #555- Stuart McLean: Christmas at the Turlington's

Those few of you that have followed by blog over the years may recall that around Christmas each year I focus on a Stuart McLean story. Stuart McLean is best known for his story telling, usually humorous, on CBC radio. While he also writes books, I've yet to see how well his tales translate to paper. Actually, while he has a large fan base (large being relative in CBC celebrity-dom, of course), I've not heard many of his stories. Truth be known, it's only at Christmas that I pay any mind to him at all. I do enjoy enjoy his stuff, else I wouldn't return to him. However, it's become more of a Christmas tradition than anything else. This year's Stuart McLean Christmas audio story is "Christmas at the Turlington's."
VC: December 19th, 2009 "Christmas at the Turlington's" sound bite

"Christmas at the Turlington's" is a delightful satirical look at those who take Christmas preparations a little too seriously. Focusing at first on the Turlingtons (who seem a little too similar to the Andersons from his previous story "Polly Anderson's Christmas Party"), fans of McLean's familiar Dave and Morley characters will be relieved to know that they play a much greater role as the story progresses.

The contrast between Dave and Mary Turlington is very clever. They represent either end of a Christmas style scale that readers (or in this case, listeners) will undoubtedly be placing themselves. Are you a Dave or a Mary? Are you more about traditional Christmases, complete with tack and chaos? (Dave) Or do you prefer the modern approach, putting your own organized spin on the holiday, making sure any throwbacks are Martha Stewart approved? (Mary) I'm definitely on the Dave side of the spectrum. Would I have known not to eat the potpourri? Yes. (But if it was guaranteed a few chuckles, I might have done so anyway.)

From my admittedly limited familiarity with McLean, I've still managed to pick up on his near formulaic approach to his stories: pace the story slowly, but build it up to an explosively slapstick ending, maintaining interest with witty satire throughout. Predictable? Sure. But sometimes, especially at Christmas, I'm okay with that. As I say, it's tradition.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below. )

(Oh and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE vote for me in the NWT Blog Awards. I've been reduced to begging and let's face it, it's embarrassing for us both.)


Wanda said...

My son and I caught Christmas at the Turlington's Saturday morning on CBC's Radio2. I sat the whole half hour with my hand attatched to the stereo just so we could listen (we have reception issues here). It was the first time either of us had heard this one, too funny! Loved the bit about how Mary's mother choose to (uh hum) honour her daughter's ex ... lol!

Last night we caught Cheech and Chong's Santa Claus and His Old Lady on the same station. We did what would look like to anyone else, a weird dance in front of the radio while doing the dishes to get this one to come in. Was it worth it? Enh, it got more eye rolls than belly laughs. We both liked the McLean story better!

Kate said...

I love Stuart McLean and tune into the Vinyl Cafe every weekend that I can. I have tried reading his stories, but they aren't as funny as they are on the radio - something about the timing, and how he can laugh at his own jokes, and interact with the audience when it's taped in concert.

I haven't heard Christmas at the Turlington's before, and I only managed to catch the first 10 minutes of the story in the car on Saturday. I must download the whole show podcast to listen to on the airplane on Wednesday!

And Wanda - I too have reception issues - I can get CBC Radio2 on my little kitchen radio, but not on my bigger stereo the next room over!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

They ARE formulaic, but I enjoy the tradition of Stuart McLean's stories as well. Even though they drive the Offspring nuts.

John Mutford said...

Wanda: Even with a satellite radio, I never bother with radio. Part of the agreement in buying a van earlier this year (I was a tough sell) was to get a hard drive on which I can load all my own mp3s. However, I do have a couple McLean stories put in there: Dave Cooks the Turkey and Polly Anderson's Christmas Party. I'm rarely on a long enough drive to get through the entire tales though, but I've got their beginnings almost learned by heart.
Cheech and Chong Christmas? Now I'm picturing Stuart McLean's Dave as being that Dave (Dave's not here, man). That'd be a funny mashup.

Kate: Sometimes, and I think I mentioned this on a previous McLean post, his audiences annoy me. I know they're all fans and all but doesn't it seem like they're all a little too eager to laugh? I mean, he still needs to earn it doesn't he?

I do appreciate that they offer the stories as free podcasts. A nice Christmas present, for sure.

Barbara: Yeah, I doubt McLean has a large fan base below 30. He certainly doesn't pander to that demographic!

Teddy Rose said...

Great review John. I did one this week too:

raidergirl3 said...

I just finished Vinyl Cafe Diaries. It had a good Christmas story/road trip tale in it.
As for demographics, my 12 year old son asked if he could read the book when I was done. They really are perfect for him - funny, and still PG-13.

*off to get the Turlington's Christmas story to listen to, tra-la-la*

John Mutford said...

Teddy: Oh good! The same one I read last week. I love comparing reviews!

Raidergirl: You proved my demographic comment wrong. In this case, I loved being corrected!

Tara Lynne Franco said...

I too am a fan of Stuart McLean, especially the stories of Dave, Marley and the kids. The Christmas ones are particularly funny. One of my favs is the one where Dave mistakenly spikes the kids egg nog instead of the adults. If you haven't seen him live, I hightly recommend finding him at a local venue this holiday season. We went last year and it was fanastic. I also discovered my new favourite canadian band - Dala! Well, I have finally started reading again and just finished David Bergen's The Time In Between. My review is posted on my blog at It is my fourth read - no longer a timbit!

John Mutford said...

Tara: That's my favourite too. It's "Polly Anderson's Christmas Party."