Tinsel – Hank Stuever

“Christmas is the single largest event in American communal life, intersecting with every aspect of religion, culture, commerce, and politics.” Page 18.

Sets an ambitious, overt-arching theme. Makes me think about the big box stores in Austin’s old airport, up there for T-Day and Xmas, but the last few Thanksgivings? Campers as early as Wednesday morning, getting ready for Black Friday.

I don’t get it.

The day after Xmas, Dec. 26? The Container Store has a sale of wrapping paper and such, and it’s a target-rich environment hunting for single moms of a certain demographic.

“The Christmas lifestyle as most Americans know and celebrate it is only about a century and a half old, a straight line from Charles Dickens to Martha Stewart.” Page 42.

For whence our traditions descend? Queen of England, 1848. And now you know the rest of the story.

“They are not immune to sudden (often faith-based) realizations that shopping can’t buy eternal salvation, but these worries tend to pass quickly.” Page 101.

No. No, no, no. Nope. Not buying it. Not in a book about Xmas.

Scary mention in the book?

Quick break, metaphysical moment here —

“For her it always comes down to Pastor Keith’s most difficult truth: ‘God can show me, but he can’t do it for me,’ she says.” Page 158.

It is the same message, reiterated throughout my own canon, plus countless other timely, timeless, epic, and garbage self-help works.

Back in the text?

“(In the American living room, the number of fake trees first surpassed the number of real trees in 1991. More than 70 million families own fake trees, which have gotten fancier, taller, fluffier, and more expensive. In 2006, 28.6 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States, for about $1.2 billion, down from a recent peak of almost 33 million trees the year before. Between 9 million and 10 million fake trees were sold this same year, and they will last an average of six Christmases before they are replaced.)” Page 226.

As a mere parenthetical aside, it’s the very data that makes the book interesting.

Does anyone still remember “New Journalism?” As the writer, we’re inserted into the story, our feelings, memories, dreams, while adding a form synesthesia, it also — openly — admits a bias.

The great recession, what a good time to write about the excess of an American



Tinsel – Hank Stuever

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.4
  • Camera: iPad Pro
  • Focal length: 3.3mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Location: 29° 35′ 47.72″ N 98° 28′ 13.52″ W
  • Shutter speed: 1/30s

About the author: Born and raised in East Texas, Kramer Wetzel, settled in a South Austin trailer park before trailer parks were cool. He now lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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