47 Minutes: Magical local tale of redemption
I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say Christmas brings out the worst in us.
This is not the start of an anti-materialism rampage, or a denunciation of seasonal hypocrisy. It’s simply the prelude to an off-beat parable just published by local author William Van Doren.
47 Minutes on Christmas Eve (Watts Passage Press) starts like this:
Christmas or no Christmas, I had to get out. Away from the house. Away from this feeling. Away from everything.
It’s not clear just what the feeling is that the narrator feels he must escape. It seems to be a product of a general antipathy to hanging Christmas lights and an inability to stop thinking about work that was left at the office. Its manifestation is a chronic melancholy with an undertow of urgency.
Out he gets, at 7:14pm on Christmas Eve.
The ensuing story ticks off in minute-long chapters, sort of like that real-time assassination thriller on Fox last season. But instead of the hit men, double crossers, and teenage hostage-takers encountered by Keiffer Sutherland in the TV show, the narrator of 47 minutes runs into a possessed barn, a Fabergé boulder, and a talking sow. This being Albemarle County, you see.
A half-hour into his winter walk, the pensive finds himself before a surreal court of hallucinations. He is charged with “not knowing what he is charged with,” and found guilty of having seen beauty, even painted it on numerous occasions. He is sentenced to… sit under a tree and think about his past.
Now I knew I was dreaming or insane or about to die – or maybe all three.
Well, no. In fact the hapless Grinch is just in the middle of his own tale of Christmas redemption. He is Scrooge among his ghosts, George Bailey faced with his defeatism. He is William Van Doren (or is he? The author dodges, “the whole thing is based on feelings I’ve had for a few desperate moments during recent holidays”) learning to sit back and smell the roses, or to remember his grandmother, or to sketch the eddies of Preddy Creek. He is a lapsed artist remembering the beauty of landscapes painted long ago.
Because when Christmas brings out the worst in us, there’s no better time to rectify it.
Stony Point resident and independent publisher William Van Doren will read from his new book, 47 Minutes on Christmas Eve, at New Dominion Bookshop on Saturday, December 21, at noon. 404 E. Market St. on the Downtown Mall. 295-2552.