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John Dufresne Talks Being Lonely, Misunderstood, and Sad During Christmas

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We understand that Dickens intended A Christmas Carol to be, in part, a critique of class power dynamics. And that the reprehensible-but-ultimately-redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge is supposed to symbolize some kind of hardened capitalist. But no matter how totally 1% the dude was, he had a point when it came to how much Christmas sucks.

From brats disappointed with their haul, to the existential dread inspired by shopping and holiday budgets, and on to the chaotic and horribly-timed personal tragedies that sometime strike during holiday seasons: Christmas can be brutal.

That reality is at the core of Blue Christmas: Holiday Stories For The Rest of Us, a new short story collection edited by John Dufresne and Books and Books-slash-Miami Book Fair don Mitchell Kaplan. Dufresne, Kaplan, and a number of the collection's contributors will be reading selections at Books and Books tomorrow night, and Cultist shot Dufresne some questions to get an inside scoop on yule tide melancholia.

Cultist: What inspired you to put together a collection of depressing Christmas stories?

John Dufresne: They're not all depressing. They're realistic stories. It was a response to the saccharine, sentimental stories that we get every holiday. [Those stories] insist that we need to be happy, grateful, and that we need to embrace the joy of the day.

The holidays can be more difficult for people. Losses are intensified. It's the best of times and worst of times. And It's not A Wonderful Life for everybody. Some stories are very funny, grim, sad...but they cover the gamut. No sugar coating.

What was the process of curation?

[Books & Books owner and Miami International Book Fair founder] Mitchell Kaplan and I sat down, and said who are the writers we would love to have, writers whose work we admired.

Do you have any particularly blue Christmas stories?

I remember looking forward so much to Christmas, and it always being a great let down. It was never as wonderful as you hoped it would be. It would be cold. It would be dark. The promise never delivered in Christmas. It's built up so much that you have to be let down. You have a great time opening the presents, and then it's like "well that was it."

How do you feel about the traditional holiday movie canon? Are there any films you particularly enjoy?

The work of art that I come back to every year is Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story, with Ralphie who wants the Red Rider B Gun. It's a bit nostalgic and yet it doesn't really get sentimental. I don't want to say I dislike [holiday movies], but I think some of them are just false. Miracle on 34th Street and all that stuff. I don't think they hold up. Some people are alone at Christmas, misunderstood at Christmas, and poor at Christmas.

A reading by John Dufresne and select authors from Blue Christmas: Holiday Stories For The Rest of Us. December 10. Books & Books (265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables). The event is free and starts at 7p.m. More info at booksandbooks.com

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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