Nicholas, the fourth-century resident of Myra, Anatolia, one of the most popular saints, is the subject of this ornate biographical treatment.
British travel-writer Seal (Treachery at Sharpnose Point, 2001, etc.) acts as exploratory pilgrim, tracking the spoor of the saint by train, ferry, bus, vaporetto, auto and jet. He follows Old Saint Nick’s long career, which started modestly enough as he provided wedding dowries, then—posthumously—as patron of seafarers and protector of travelers to the Holy Land, later as an émigré to Russia aiding wayfarers and, eventually, as blessed supplier of aid in general. The redoubtable saint survived Protestantism, and his bones, when picked over, yielded holy relics. Alas, he turned commercial in Amsterdam. Finally, arriving in the New World, like many other immigrants, he changed costume and name (to Santa Claus, naturally) and now the jolly jelly belly, in his trademark red outfit, endorses products like Coca-Cola and finds employment in department stores, posing for photos. As it moves from ancient Nea Prokopi and Güzelyurt to modern Lapland, the narrative is precariously extravagant. Early on, for example, we learn that the legend of Santa is taught by adults to children “like the respectivity of trouser legs.” Huh?! Maybe it makes more sense if you’re British. The author’s writing can be entertaining or, as readily, give you glazed eyeballs. Thus, this erudite outing about St. Nick, rough patches and all.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Here is evidence in an investigative report on who he was before he became the cult personage in the polar parsonage.