A NORTHERN NATIVITY by William Kurelek
Kirkus Star


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If it happened there, why not here? If it happened then, why not now?"" The answers--twenty native Canadian nativity scenes--come in a series of dreams William had at age 12: gentle, mystical visions of an Eskimo, black, or Indian Holy Family; depression-era vignettes of a Ukrainian madonna in a boxcar or Mary and Child sheltered in a service station while, next door, a neon sign for the New Bethlehem Motel blinks No Vacancy; surreal episodes in which Mother and Child go unnoticed while a crowd of sightseers gapes at iced-in Niagara Falls, or bundled up children tease the Holy Infant to come out and play (""Can't they see that he is too young? . . .Wasn't that similar to another question often asked: Why can't the sick in mind pull themselves together?""). In some of the visions William appears as ""Bill"", his projection of an older, independent self who rejects the Child: ""In his dreams William had always felt sorry when the Holy Family appeared and were not recognized or helped. Yet he was no readier than the people in his dreams to receive them if that meant giving up his dream of independence."" That Kurelek dares to approach Christmas as an occasion for spiritual growth instead of an excuse for self-congratulatory kitsch speaks for the book's uniqueness. His full-page Nativities--placing a stocky primitivist Holy Family among slag heaps and coal tipples, bare farm settlements, and snow-filled mountain passes--are a new and beautiful Christmas manifestation.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Tundra - dist. by Scribners