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Chip Crockett's Christmas Carol by…
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Chip Crockett's Christmas Carol

by Elizabeth Hand

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The first Christmas story where a main character has autism. Deals with the struggle a father has with his autistic son. Bittersweet Christmas story. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
“When Brendan touches his four-year-old son, Peter screams and pulls away. He suffers from a form of autism known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder and has no idea how much his father wants to make him smile. Their relationship is tortured, but Christmas is coming, and a miracle might come with it.

An unlikely harbinger of the holidays arrives in the form of Tony Kemper, Brendan’s childhood friend who’s never quite gotten over his glory days as a 1970s punk sensation. Broke, unemployed, and homeless, Tony has recently become obsessed with the long-canceled Chip Crockett television show, a beloved memory from when they were kids. Not a minute of footage remains of Chip, but these three boys are about to discover that when an entertainer is truly great, his magic will last forever.”

Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol is, in many ways an homage to the original Christmas Carol by Dickens. But that doesn’t mean it’s derivative. It maintains the spirit of the tale without the schmaltz that so often permeates Christmas stories. Author Elizabeth Hand does a marvelous job of showing the difficulties and heartbreak of raising an autistic child while not turning Peter into Tiny Tim, an object of pity and Brendan may have Scrooge-like qualities but he definitely isn’t the miser of the original tale. And Tony, well, he’s a very likable modern Cratchett or maybe Marley but he’s definitely his own character.

As a Boomer, I really appreciated the cultural references, especially Tony as a literary Joey Ramone (still love the Ramones) and I liked how memory became magic (or, if you like, ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future) as Tony is able to watch every Christmas show and movie ever made even though they aren’t listed in any guide even one like Chip Crockett’s Christmas carol which shouldn’t exist and, in doing so, helping both Brendan and Peter to come together through the sharing of culture. I also liked that the miracle was a realistic one.

Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol is a charming novella full of the magic and spirit of Christmas. It is sweet without being schmaltzy and moving without being manipulative. It was originally nominated for the World Fantasy Award and is now being rereleased with the proceeds going to Autism Speaks in memory of Anne Marie Murphy, the special ed teacher killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. I know it’s kind of late (or early) for a Christmas tale but, hey, a story this good shouldn't be limited to just one month a year. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Jan 13, 2014 |
Living with autism.

I decided to read this in December, as I rarely read Christmas stories in the run-up to Christmas. However, it didn't grab me and I would have abandoned it early on if it hadn't been for the theme of Peter, an autistic 4 year-old. I was much less inspired by the theme of Sixties television shows, particularly Chip Crockett, of the title.

Peter's Dad, Brendan, is separated from his wife and they share the daunting task of raising Peter, who looks no-one in the eye and eschews all physical contact. When Brendan's old school friend, Tony Maroni, an ageing pop star, begs a bed for the Christmas season, he brings with him Christmas cheer that Brendan was trying to shun. It had been around Christmas that Brendan and his wife had discovered that Peter was autistic and the festive season had brought nothing but bad memories ever since.

This reissue of the 2006 novella, provides an excellent insight into the realities of coping with autism, ageing and divorce, but I had no interest at all in Chip Crockett or sixties/seventies music. I'm hovering between two and three stars but will go for the higher rating as proceeds are being donated to the charity Autism Speaks. ( )
  DubaiReader | Jan 1, 2014 |
This is a short story about a father, Brendon, of an autistic boy, Peter, who, besides his ex with whom her shares custody of Peter, has two other friends, Tony and Kevin. In the story, Brendon is a lawyer, eking out a living in DC. Tony is a rock star, “wanna be” or has been (not really clear), looking for direction in life and obsessed with Chip Crockett, a TV Kid’s star who once entertained him and Brendon and who has recently died. Brendon is also searching for answers. His life is not exactly as he would have liked it to turn out. He is divorced from another lawyer. He is trying to understand and come to grips with his son’s autism. He doesn’t really enjoy celebrating the holidays, which makes this time of the year, around Thanksgiving to Christmas, especially difficult to get through. The story revolves around Tony’s obsession with Chip Crockett, and how that affects him and Brendon and Peter. I found the story an interesting read, tough I could have enjoyed it more if there had been more focus on Peter and how he interacted initially and later with everyone. The characters are well developed. The storyline is very simple and clearly presented without a lot of extra baggage you so often find in books. It was heartening to see how Brendon and especially Peter developed in the story. Though the setting is the Christmas season, the story really isn’t about the holiday, but more about two grown men, one unemployed after a touch with stardom and one the father of a young son, searching for meaning in their lives and where to go from here. It is also the story of Peter, who is endearing and makes you want to hug him, though, with his autism, that might not go over so well with him. I have not read anything else by the author, but after reading this short book, I will definitely look for more of her works. I think anyone looking for a feel-good story during the holidays or with a holiday setting would enjoy this book and I highly recommend it. I received this from NetGalley to read and review. ( )
  KMT01 | Dec 21, 2013 |
I was provided with a free reviewing copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

This caught my eye as it was being promoted online. I'm the mother of an autistic child. This novella is about the father of an autistic child. I was tempted to buy it but then I saw the proceeds go to Autism Speaks. That made me pause. They are not my charity of choice for several reasons. However, when I saw this was available on NetGalley, I was glad to have a chance to read it after all. [At the start of the novella, it explains that the story was re-released in tribute to a special needs teacher who died in the Sandy Hook shooting a year ago, and her family asked for the money to go to Autism Speaks. I definitely respect them for that choice.]

All that said...

I read a collection of Elizabeth Hand's short stories earlier this year. I can definitely detect a certain pattern to her writing. She develops things slowly, and often the speculative nature of the piece is so subtle it can be missed. That's certainly the case here. The element of magic here is so slight that it can be ignored by a reader who prefers more literary stories. As for me, I prefer more magic, so as I read I was a little frustrated by that subtlety.

Hand does a very good job showing the emotional toll that autism can have within a family. Rearing any child is hard, but it's harder yet when a child is unable to speak or engage with the world. The child in the story, Peter, is on the severe end of the spectrum--much more so than my son. I found the novella developed at too slow a pace for my preference--or maybe because I've already dealt with many similar hardships, I felt impatient because I "got it" early on and wanted to move along. Sometimes it felt overwrought to me. On the other hand, this would all be quite enlightening for a reader who is unfamiliar with autism.

One of the more powerful elements is the use of childhood memory and how it binds people together. Chip Crockett is a TV show figure like Captain Kangaroo, but almost all of the video footage of his show was lost in a fire. There is an entire generation who perks up at the name and goes, 'Oh year! Remember that puppet he had? Remember when that happened?' The nostalgia is fantastic, and I loved that that common ground is where the real magic of the novella begins.

In all, I liked the read, even if it was slow for me. I appreciated Hand's realistic portrayal of autism--the good, the bad--and how it can really feel like a miracle when everything finally clicks. ( )
  ladycato | Dec 20, 2013 |
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The father of an autistic child dreams of a Christmas miracle in this moving short novel nominated for the World Fantasy Award-proceeds to be donated to Autism Speaks When Brendan touches his four-year-old son, Peter screams and pulls away. He suffers from a form of autism known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder and has no idea how much his father wants to make him smile. Their relationship is tortured, but Christmas is coming, and a miracle might come with it. An unlikely harbinger of the holidays arrives in the form of Tony Kemper, Brendan's childhood friend who's never quite gotten over his glory days as a 1970s punk sensation. Broke, unemployed, and homeless, Tony has recently become obsessed with the long-canceled Chip Crockett television show, a beloved memory from when they were kids. Not a minute of footage remains of Chip, but these three boys are about to discover that when an entertainer is truly great, his magic will last forever. Previously serialized online, this is the first time Chip Crockett's Christmas Carol has been published in ebook form. Elizabeth Hand will donate all proceeds from this book to Autism Speaks in honor of special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. The two attended the same high school, where Murphy was a friend of Hand's younger sister.… (more)

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