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Holly Jolly by Mark Voger (book review).

A tiny confession: I’m not the festive type. Can’t eat the food nor drink or socialise with diabetes and agoraphobia medicine and food intolerances being the cause. For those of you experiencing the lack of socialising, it’s just situation normal for me. I thought I ought to admit that in case anyone who knows wonders what I’m doing reviewing this particular book.

Saying that, I did have to wonder about Mark Voger’s book, ‘Holly Jolly’, devoted to the yuletide season. Well, at least the American version of it. The book was a little late in arriving because of the current postal delays but I reckon while you’re feeling seasonal, you’re just as likely to buy it afterwards than before. Either way, TwoMorrows might well have a seasonal book on their hands, bought on a regular basis than all the year round. I’m expecting them to do books based on Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving at this rate.

Don’t expect this to a sugary book. Voger is very honest in his own reflections of his childhood and considering he burnt his brother with one of his presents, appears to have been a bit of a brat. At least it looks like he changed as an adult. His assessment that Christmas consists of a religious and commercial version is on the nail, with the former getting two pages. There’s also a reminder that the word ‘holiday’ came from ‘holy day’.

There is the odd reminder of the UK with a look at Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, although not mentioning its filmed versions until later in the book. Edison was responsible for coming up with Christmas lights, but hardly surprising as he worked on that electricity thing and its bi-products.

The more I read this book, the more I realised just how much it will hit the nostalgia strings in you if you’ve been bought up somewhere between the 1960s-1990s, there will surely be something here to stir memories of your childhood. Mark Voger doesn’t miss much from the yuletide period, including the current appearance of Santa Claus is based off a Thomas Nast design for the Cocoa-Cola company. If ever there was a demonstration of commercialism representing Christmas. Oh, there are also an alien multi-armed version of Santa Claus, one smoking a cigarette in advertising and one where he has yellow stockings on, although it isn’t for tranny reasons. Amongst the presents of the 1950s, was giving cigarettes and even real guns. Scary stuff. That even beats the ‘Monster World’ representation.

Obviously, the film and TV section hits on the most well-know American and a couple, like UK’s ‘Scrooge’ (1951) getting a look in. Incidentally, with the review of ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ (1951) there is a photo of actress Jane Darwell but no mention that she was the flower-seller in ‘Mary Poppins’ (1966).

If you’re looking for odd films with association with Christmas to pick from, it includes ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968), ‘The Godfather’ (1972) and even ‘Batman’ (1992). I did have a ponder on any missed and wondered about ‘The Time Machine’ (1960) but I guess films with snow in would qualify.

When it comes to TV series, it was traditional with both sides of the pond to include a yuletide story, more so if it was being shown at Christmas. Voger only concentrates on the American shows and I only really recognise the one starring Billy Mumy from ‘Bewitched’ from 1964 which is still a good episode. I suspect its only space and knowledge that didn’t mention any British shows that would have been show in the USA from the period like ‘Thunderbirds’ (1966-67) and even an episode from ‘Doctor Who’s ‘The Chase’ where Bill Hartnell’s Doctor broke the fifth wall and spoke to the audience or much later, the animated film ‘The Snowman’ (1982) based off Raymond Briggs’ book of the same name. I suspect this will be a game of what was missed from our youth that was missed out. Oh, speaking of voices you know but not the face of, page 179 has a photo of Thurl Ravenscroft (1914-2005) who was Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes (US) or Frosties (UK)’ adverts both sides of the pond before they were classified as being too sweet to eat anymore.

Don’t take any criticism above as being critical of the book. Much of it is showing I’m paying attention as I read and thinking about what I remember from my youth. There is a lot to learn from this book and a lot of nostalgia, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets an annual reprinting which means Mark Voger might well do another edition somewhere down the line.

GF Willmetts

December 2020

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 191 page illustrated hardback. Price: $43.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-097-7. Direct from them, you can get it for $43.95 (US))

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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