Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dear Reader, Love John Manderino

Dear Reader,

            I’ve always wanted to do a book with illustrations by my sister Nancy, who draws wonderfully. I tried writing a children’s book but it came out much too sweet. I tried again and it came out far too grim. So the next one, according to Goldilocks, should be just right. It wasn’t. It was silly and stupid and boring, and I gave up.
            But a Christmas book, I thought.
            I already had a Christmas story in a chapter from my first book, so I pulled that out, gave the narrator Len a much looser rein, and was excited to find he had a lot more to report, a skimpy book’s-worth in fact.
            Nancy meanwhile put together some lovely, quiet drawings. My favorite is the dead grandfather in the bathtub, especially the shower curtain.
            But my publisher wasn’t interested in a Christmas book—too brief a selling period. They gave me permission to try elsewhere, but I didn’t bother. I put the manuscript in the drawer, under my socks. I’d enjoyed writing it and Nan enjoyed doing the drawings, so: no regrets.
            The following Christmas, however, I ran off a copy of the manuscript, deciding it would make a wonderfully cheap gift for my brother Mike, who in fact the narrator Len is loosely modeled after. Then Mike gave me an even better gift: he called and convinced me to quit being lazy and send this damn thing around.
            So I did and got lucky, finding someone almost right away, out in Iowa, who told me over the phone he read parts of the book aloud to his wife. I was standing by the window and noticed for the first time what a beautiful elm tree my neighbor has.
            So, that’s how The True Meaning of Myrrh came to be on the shelves this Christmas season. I dedicated the book to my brother because if it weren’t for him it would still be under my socks.

About the Author

JOHN MANDERINO grew up in the Chicago area but now lives in Maine with his wife Marie, where he teaches college writing and provides coaching and editing services to other writers. He has three novels, two short stories collections and a memoir published by Chicago Review (Academy Chicago), and a Christmas novel published by Ice Cube Press. John has also written plays that have been performed at theater festivals and other venues. A stage version of his memoir Crying at Movies was produced.


About the Book:

Set in suburban Chicago during the 1960’s, The True Meaning of Myrrh is an amusing, but gritty, look at the holiday season as it used to be. The nostalgia classics: turkey, snowball fights, droopy Christmas trees, and midnight Mass are leavened with a drunken Santa, oedipal anguish, prostitutes and an aggressive midget.

One brother can’t shake his profound disappointment at receiving slippers when he thought the box held hockey gloves. Meanwhile his older brother receives a tape recorder and is trying to capture all the “magic” in his “special holiday broadcast” with mixed results. The boys’ politically divided parents have a serious falling-out about the Holy Family versus the welfare state and aren’t talking.

And then there are the wounds that only family can inflict on each other like the too-clever comment that devastates their Santa-dressed uncle. 

Will Len manage to rise above the bitter disappointment? Will his parents reach across the aisle for the sake of the day? Will Sam learn a Christmas lesson that doesn’t fit smoothly into his “holiday broadcast”? In The True Meaning of Myrrh, this and other questions get answered, including what is myrrh, anyway.



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