He was never sentimental about these things, being a Jew. Still, Wilshire Boulevard, with its plastic Santas and strung up sleighs, its gaudy “snowflakes” shedding tinsel in eighty degree heat: these things made him weep.
Alexandra Socarides writes about the complex layers of the familiar holiday poem “The Night Before Christmas” for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
I’m not normally one to think that we should care too much about how an artist chooses to live his or her life, or about what that artist chooses to believe. If we based our assessments of art on those things, I think we all know we would never have the pleasure of looking at another Picasso painting or of reading another poem by Ezra Pound again. So I’m not saying that, just because Clement Moore had what I consider to be abhorrent politics, we shouldn’t read this poem to a whole new generation of Santa Claus–crazy children. What I am saying is that once you know about them, it’s hard not to see them all over the poem.
Christmas on Kilimanjaro is the first holiday I’ve spent with family in seven years. Since 2006, I had been living in San Francisco — 3,000 miles away from any family gathering. Before that I was in college, and before that I was on scholarship at boarding school. Every summer I spent working. I never went back. The very first time I ran away from home, I was in middle school.