Christmas is a time for mince pies and holiday-gone-wrong stories. Yep, that’s it. Those two things. Believe it. So I chose Owen Egerton’s Nativity, a story about a disastrous children’s Nativity play. It’s the opening chapter to his novel, The Book of Harold: The Illegitimate Son of God; but I read it years ago as a stand-alone piece in American Short Fiction. It still makes me laugh.
Initially, the narrator’s tone is sarcastic. His introduction of Mrs Pock, the director of his church’s Nativity play, doesn’t compliment her judgment. “For her, the event was as holy as any hymn, any prayer, any stained glass window or Renaissance masterpiece.”
Making slapstick work on the page is an impressive feat. The form’s most successful examples tend to be movies where fart sounds are as meaningful as dialogue. But the story doesn’t throw enough pies to be pure slapstick, just like it doesn’t bite enough to be pure satire. Egerton doesn’t ridicule his characters as satire or slapstick would. His blend of comedy forgives them for their failings. We end up laughing with them and not at them, knowing that we couldn’t do better in their place. This author isn’t sneering at his characters; I think he loves them. And, to end on a note that Tiny Tim might find too saccharine, I ask you: Isn’t that what Christmas is about? Loving each other? And mince pies? Giant ones? Yeah.
Owen Egerton himself reading the piece:
About the Author:
David Lewis grew up in Oklahoma, studied in London and now lives in Paris. His fiction can be found in The 2013 Fish Anthology, Chelsea Station and J’aime mon quartier, je ramasse (http://loserskeepers.tumblr.com/). He’d like to write a novel but only manages to finish short stories.
Stories Written: "Chaperones" (read by Silas Hawkins)