Hugh Mulligan was the kind of guy you hope sits next to you on a long train ride – funny, smart, kind and with more stories than a lifetime should include. A collection of 44 holiday columns by the former special correspondent of The Associated Press has just been published under the title "Mulligan’s Christmas Stew."
"Mulligan’s Christmas Stew" includes the stories behind "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Silent Night," and explores the mystery of who Santa Claus is, noting that thousands of words have been written about him, "but he has never submitted to an interview." One column considers what it would be like if Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Mr. Pickwick and other famous characters from holiday fiction all came to Christmas dinner.
Mulligan, a native New Yorker whose work appeared in newspapers across the country, recounted his adventures in nearly 150 countries. He covered popes, presidents and princesses. He retired in 2000 and died in 2008 at age 83.
In The Wall Street Journal this week, columnist Ralph Gardner Jr. called Mulligan "a witty and erudite storyteller."
For those familiar with Mulligan’s work, the book will be a keepsake that gathers his holiday stories in one place. For younger readers, it will serve as an introduction to the popular storyteller.
In a 1958 piece titled "Brainy Babes in Toyland," Mulligan wrote:
Like everyone else, I'd like to be a child again at Christmas, but frankly I just don't have the IQ for it anymore.
Toddlers today, as any department store toy catalogue plainly shows, are so far ahead of the rest of us intellectually that parents need a cram course at the Institute for Advanced Study to set the toys out under the tree.
It was bad enough in the old days trying to assemble junior's scooter and sister's doll carriage on the night before Christmas, when all that was needed was the brains of an Edison or Marconi. But how are you going to contend with the 266-piece, four-foot-long atomic cannon that actually fires and the alpha 1 ballistic missile with its rocket motor, remote control adjustable launcher and its nontoxic, nonflammable oxidizer and fuel load?
Actor and storyteller Malachy McCourt writes in a foreword:
This is a serene book that nudges its way into your heart. And speaking for myself, I don't believe I'll have a negative thought about Christmas again as these stories, an amazing gift all their own, would even put a smile on Ebenezer Scrooge's face!
"Mulligan's Christmas Stew" includes Christmas trivia and quizzes, and concludes with an oral history about the journalist’s life and career that he did for AP Corporate Archives in 2005. It is the latest in AP’s burgeoning book publishing program.