The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

December 17, 2009

Bah, humbug, anyone?

I received a pair of books for Christmas from my southernmost sister and what with every other blogger sharing lists of books about crime at Christmas, I figured I might as well chime in with my take on one of these books. It isn't strictly about crime, although there are some near-murders and illegal drug activity sprinkled on a few pages.

This delightful book that takes the wind out of the holiday sails is The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays, edited by Michele Clark and Taylor Plimpton. It's a malicious/delicious anthology perhaps not best suited for the very young, it being neither warm-hearted nor child-like. But certainly hilarious and occasionally tragic.

Perhaps it is revealing that my reading of the book began, not with P.J. O'Rourke's introduction, but with Mark Twain's amusing installment -- certainly the sweetest and gentlest of those I've read so far -- and then I moved on to Charles Bukowski's darkly hilarious -- and oh-so-real to those of us with inner-city roots -- chapter on Christmas and Women. What does that say about me?

Speaking of women, as writers they aren't particularly well-represented in this anthology and the one I have read thus far, Chris Radant's Home for the Holidays: A Survivor's Frightening Account, reflects the popular notion that the modern woman finds her parents intolerably provincial. Not popular with me, but Hollywood seems to like the idea.

If Jay McInerney's The Madonna of Turkey Season is like watching a holiday trainwreck, one can only imagine the emotional pain prevalent at the McInerney holiday dinners. I staggered away from his story and went directly to James Thurber's struggle with the mountainous dilemma of Christmas cards in Merry Christmas. It didn't quite wash away the angst of the McInerney clan but it helped. Still to read: Hunter S. Thompson, John Cheever, George Plimpton (whose chapter I shall probably save for last), David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs and many more.

If, like me, you're prone to the holiday blues because everything is supposed to be merry and bright but rarely never is, this may be just the reading material that will help you to realize you are not alone and that while it ain't all bubble lights and snowflakes, life still beats the alternative. And for an intelligent review of this book, as opposed to me just burbling on, check out James Yeh's post at The Faster Times.


  1. That comic is hilarious, Naomi! I think Tom Schreck needs a copy of this book. He's not too fond of the holidays either; I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

    Me, I tend to see the merry and bright, regardless of whether it's there or not. Ah, these rose colored glasses are nice this time of year! Ha!

  2. This sounds like a great and varied read, Naomi. I, too, love that comic picture. For me, the holidays usually work out (despite my ever growing cynicism). Thanks for this.

  3. Yes, somehow the holidays do seem to work themselves out. And I sometimes think my holiday blues have less to do with the holidays than with the shrinking amount of daylight. Even though we are approaching the winter solstice and the days will once again begin to lengthen, here in Ohio our winters are so overcast that we don't feel the effect of the solstice until the next equinox.

    Ever-growing cyncism? You? I don't believe it. There's not a hint of it in your blog posts.

    Jen, I am not surprised that you see merry and bright. That's a reflection of your own sweet nature.