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FOR THE LITERATURE LOVER.

Christmas Stories from Mississippi, published by University Press of Mississippi, compiles seasonal works from Mississippians from Ellen Gilchrist to Elizabeth Spencer. Mixing familiar and new voices, co-editors Judy Tucker and Charline McCord of Jackson and illustrator Wyatt Waters of Clinton move readers from classic selections such as Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" to a thoroughly modern family Christmas with feuds and firecrackers in Tennessee in McCord's "Home for Christmas."

Welty's selection opens the collection, while Willie Morris' "Christmases Gone, Revisited" from Homecomings serves as the closing piece. "Faulkner is always the lead in everything. We deliberately placed Willie's at the end and Eudora Welty's at the beginning. We started to dedicate the book to her," said McCord. "She has worn the path in writing for all of us, and we are just following her."

From a Christmas box with a quilt sent North in Clifton Taubert's "Quilts: Kiver for My Children" to a woman's first Christmas without her father in Nancy Isonhood's "The Morning Stove," the stories cover much familiar ground and some unfamiliar. Selections such as Edward Cohen's memoir of growing up Jewish in Jackson and Carolyn Haines's story about a duck hunt gone wrong at Christmas reflect a diversity of voice unusual in coffee-table holiday fare.

Waters, who collaborated with Tucker in Another Coat of Paint and Painting Home, found whimsical references within the stories for all 17 black-and-white watercolor illustrations. "Home for Christmas" features a toy car resting on a road map, while Barry Hannah's "Sermon for Meath" opens with a toy World War II soldier standing guard over a box of matches. "They're universal stories about Christmas, but that one was very personal to me. I live on the street where that story took place," said Waters.

Tucker noted that the concept has grown a great deal since she penned "Clara's Star" and began asking other writing colleagues to contribute their own Christmas selections. Tucker recounted her conversation with Elizabeth Spencer concerning inclusion of Spencer's "Presents:" "Why hasn't anyone done this before?" Spencer asked her.

Waters attributed much of his enjoyment in the work to sentiment: "I got a chance to work with William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Willie Morris again." The various Christmas stories on returning home illuminate how Mississippians view Christmas, echoing a sentiment best expressed by Morris: "To this day when I hear O Little Town of Bethlehem, that town for me is really Yazoo."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Downhome Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review; Christmas Stories from Mississippi
Author:WHITEHEAD, JULIE
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:402
Previous Article:FOR THE CHILD, OR THE CHILD INSIDE.
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