Some of my favourite holiday stories are merely set during the holidays. They’re not vast tales of how the holiday spirit changes a person, nor are they all about the spirit of giving or the like. They just happen to occur as a side-effect of the holidays, while someone is shopping or the like. Such is “The Seventh Floor of Barbara Ireson,” from A Few More Winter Tales.
The Barbara in question (Barbie to her parents) is shopping with her parents, or rather, is tagging along and bored out of her mind while her parents shop, and wheedles her way into being allowed to go to the sixth floor where there are ‘Books and Records.’ She will wait there for them, she promises. They finally relent, she enters the lift, and exits… somewhere.
Campbell has such a brilliant way with words here. The story reads like a contemporary Alice or Narnia—here is a little girl who realizes she’s somewhere she shouldn’t necessarily be, but frankly life isn’t as exciting as books and really, this feels like an opportunity, so… Barbara is in. The delight of the ending is as much in the subversion of the kind of theme most holiday stories have as it is in the joy of this particular kind of otherworldly visit tale.