I didn’t get a single book this Christmas. Not counting Garry Trudeau’s book of satirical Twitter posts, My Shorts R Bunching. Thoughts?: The Tweets of Roland Hedley. Which is fun but I have to be careful and read it in short snatches because it’s already had way too much influence on my own tweeting, as you can tell.
I’m not complaining, exactly. It was just an unusual Christmas that way. Every other Christmas I can remember Santa managed to leave at least one book under the tree for me.
This year he probably figured I’ve got a big enough stack of unread books on my desk, I don’t need to add to it. It’s probably unsafe to add to it. It’s three feet high, halfway to the ceiling from the top of the desk and not built for stability. Still, I wouldn’t have minded adding Pops, Terry Teachout’s new biography of Louis Armstrong.
But maybe a bookless Christmas was Santa’s way of leaving coal in my stocking. Finish the ones you have, was his message, then we’ll discuss next year.
The blonde has always been good about her books. She reads every new one she gets her hands on right away. So Santa brought her Lorrie Moore’s new novel, A Gate at the Stairs, and the boys gave her the latest Wallander paperback, The Pyramid, which contains the first Wallander stories, first in the sense of being set earlier in Wallander’s career, before the novel sequence begins, before Wallander became as utterly miserable as his fans have gotten to know him, not in the sense of having been written first.
Ken and Oliver made out like bandits, book-wise, themselves. Plus they each received a Barnes and Noble gift certificate from their respective Secret Santas among their cousins. Books are all Ken asked for for Christmas this year. His haul includes too many to list here, but he’s halfway through the copy of Stephen King’s Under the Dome his grandparents gave him.
Oliver received two books by one of his new intellectual heroes, Shelby Foote---Shiloh and Stars in Their Courses : The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 . But he’s been reading a book he plucked without causing a collapse from my tottering tower on the desk, Idiot America , by another of his new intellectual heroes, Charles Pierce.
Still, I’m not jealous. I’m not. I’m really not.
But this bookless Christmas has---
I am NOT jealous!
Where was I?
This bookless Christmas had given me an idea. It’s an idea that proceeds from the fact that Christmas is not over.
Ever since I was a kid it’s bothered me that Christmas shuts down right on December 25. Go into a drug store on the 26th, The Feast of Stephen, when good King Wenceslas looked down, and you’ll find the clerks hurriedly putting out the Valentine’s cards and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. In other stores the Christmas decorations are coming down and the carols have stopped playing and the clerks, if they can muster any left over holiday cheer, are half-heartedly wishing customers a happy New Year.
And this is with eleven more days of Christmas to go!
Plus the Feast of the Three Kings, Little Christmas!
And in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Christmas itself is celebrated on January 7.
Christmas isn’t over when it’s over.
It shouldn’t be, at any rate.
Perhaps I took the song too much to heart. More than likely I was overly influenced by Dickens. In A Christmas Carol the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge through all twelve days of Christmas and finally leaves him outside a Twelfth Night party for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to find.
For as long as I can remember it’s been my mission in life to persuade my friends and family to keep their Christmas spirits up all twelve days and to celebrate Twelfth Night and Little Christmas. This never completely caught on at Mom and Pop Mannions’ house. For some reason Mom Mannion thought we kids didn’t need any more presents. I always argued that more didn’t have to be the point. We could just save some of the boring gifts---clothes---and maybe one toy to open on January 5 or 6. I never won this argument. But some years, if the Epiphany fell on a Saturday or Sunday, Mom would indulge me by making a big dinner and inviting my grandparents over.
This has more or less been the case here at our house, although the blonde, like Mom Mannion, never seems quite as enthusiastic about more cooking and more visitors so soon after New Year’s.
This year, however, I think my new idea will get her a little more excited.
I propose that the celebration of Twelfth Night and Little Christmas be marked by the giving of a few simple gifts.
That is, books.
I suggest that everybody give to a select small group of nearest and dearest one book each. Hardcover or paperback. New or used.
Who’s with me?
I’m convinced that if the printing press had been invented the Wise Men wouldn’t have bothered with their gold, frankisncense, and myrrh but would have given the Baby Jesus Pat the Camel, Goodnight Wandering Star, and If You Give a Mouse a Matzoh.
And, no, this isn’t a sneaky plot to make up for Santa’s omission.
So…what about you?
What books would you give? What books would you like to be given? What books did you get.
I AM NOT JEALOUS!
Looking for suggestions? People pay Maud Newton to read books. Which is smart of them because Maud is a fine writer of reviews of books she’s been paid to read. Maud’s posted a list of her favorites among the books she was paid to read (not that she really needed to be paid to want to read them) and ones she read on her own for the sheer love of it over the past year.