Holiday reading

I am salivating like a puppy waiting for a new bone: Next week I am on vacation. Actually, vacation is too strong of a word: Recuperative Time more accurately describes it.

Activities will consist mainly of reading, reorganizing bookshelves and installing my new computer (yup, I bit the techno bullet and got a PowerBook).

All of the above makes for some pretty grateful thanksgiving on behalf of yours truly, Miz Kitten.

Now, if, like me, you are gearing up for the excruciating—er, exciting Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/solstice celebrations, here are some of my old literary chestnuts that I’ve roasted by many an open fire. My gift to you, though I’m afraid the list is pretty traditional and well-worn, like a pair of old slippers. A pair of old Christian slippers. But guaranteed Holiday-Spirit-Inducing or your money back. I would only ask that you help me build my list by adding some favorites of your own.

Many thanks, dear bloggers, for your online companionship. May the Thanksgiving spirit envelop you and yours.

The Literate Kitten’s Unofficial Winter Holiday Reading Treasury
To be read liberally, with a dose of eggnog and a dash of merriment

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. “If I could work my will,' said Scrooge indignantly, `every idiot who goes about with "Merry Christmas" on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!'” – You gotta love it! A book for young and old, not to be missed, no matter how many film versions Hollywood churns out.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. In “The SantaLand Diaries,” Sedaris chronicles his stint as a Macy’s elf, from the interview process and training seminars to full blown elfdom. Hilarious, and a perfect antidote to the annual commercial OD.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore. This takes me straight back to childhood. The less sentimental can choose The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. But (True Confession time) I myself am not a Grinch aficionado. (Or would that be a Grinchionado?)

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. A gorgeous, heartfelt story. And you can find the text here.

The Gingerbread Man. “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” – do you remember this old folktale? For very small children and their children-at-heart parental figures. For thorough enjoyment, find a properly aged, richly-illustrated edition with a Gingerbread Man who truly looks good enough to eat.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Possibly due to its snowy Alpine setting, I associate this book with the holidays. Of course, it could be the uplifting tale of friendship overcoming all obstacles and family traditions that invoke the true holiday spirit: selflessness, charity, generosity and—naaaaaaw. I’m pretty sure it’s the snow.


Thoughts for Thursday - Dharma Bums

From The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac (thanks, Jean!):

When I was a little kid in Oregon I didn't feel that I was an American at all, with all that suburban ideal and sex repression and general dreary newspaper gray censorship of all our real human values but and when I discovered Buddhism and all I suddenly felt that I had lived in a previous lifetime innumerable ages ago and now because of faults and sins in that lifetime I was being degraded to a more grievous domain of existence and my karma was to be born in America where nobody has any fun or believes in anything, especially freedom.

See the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn't really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of 'em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.


A reading meme

This is a meme from Kate at Kate’s Book Blog:

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember. I do know it was before kindergarten. My mother said she put “rag books” (books made of cloth) in our cribs. I don't recall my parents ever reading nighttime stories to us, though.

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?

My mother bought me a copy of Little Women at Woolworth’s. It turned out to be abridged, but I loved it anyway. That was probably my first “very own” book.

My brothers and sister and I shared Dr. Seuss books: Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. We also owned a copy of Are you my mother? by P.D. Eastman, which I loved.

On Saturdays in the summer, my dad used to drive us to the library. While we prowled inside, he sat in the car listening to baseball games on the radio. I can’t remember exactly which was which anymore, but I’m sure back then I borrowed more than I owned. Some favorite titles that float to my head are Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, the All-of-a-Kind Family series and the Betsy-Tacy books.

(By the way, here is an NY Times article that you might want to check out, Louisa May Alcott’s American Girls.)

3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money?

Cannot remember, honestly. Quite possibly a Nancy Drew book, though.

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?

Little Women, Gone with the Wind, All-of-a-Kind Family, A Little Princess, Witch of Blackbird Pond, Nancy Drew.

5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?

Gone with the Wind. I was probably in the 10-12 range, and I read it in one weekend.

6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?

I think as an adult I can better appreciate classics like Alice in Wonderland, a tale I never warmed up to, and the Chronicles of Narnia, though I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe even as a child. I’d like to try L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, a book I passed by simply because the film was so marvelous.

Bonus Question: Are there books you remember reading as a child that you either can’t find now or can’t remember the title?

I added this, because it is a question that’s been nagging at me lately. There are two books I can remember reading but can’t lay my hands on. Maybe one of you will remember reading it, too.

One was a book about a family that lived in a reconverted streetcar. The father was a streetcar driver, and I think streetcars were being replaced by autos. So, they drove the streetcar to the end of the line and lived in it. The book even had a layout of the interior of the streetcar.

The other book was about a Christmas tree that didn’t get bought for the holidays because it was so little. As I recall, the tree got tossed into a scrap heap and became all yellowed and dried out. But it never got over its desire to fulfill its destiny. Finally, someone pulled it out of the heap and used it as a laundry pole. And the tree was so happy, doing something useful and being able to stand on a hill in the breeze. That story made me cry, but I cannot find it. I thought it was called The Littlest Christmas Tree. There seems to be a rip-off book recently released under that title, where the tree wants to be a Christmas tree but actually starts appreciating just being in nature. Bah, humbug. Maybe the original story is too tough for kids today!


An aspirational meme

Litlove devised a new meme, which saves me from having to devise anything on this Monday, the beginning of the last week before a vacation. This was tough for me, but overall, a very good reflection as we near the end of 2006. Thanks, Litlove!

What part of the past would you bring back if you possibly could?

The second summer in graduate school. I had enough money to live on and enough time to write. Every morning I woke at 6 a.m. and got in a morning run before the desert grew too hot (I was living in Tucson), ate breakfast and got behind the desk of my apartment (with a palm tree outside the window) and wrote solidly until 4 or 5. Sometimes I’d get so absorbed in my writing, I’d forget to get up to eat or go to the bathroom. It was during this time I truly knew that this was what I was meant to do.

What character trait would you alter if you could?

Fear of commitment.

Which skill would you like to have the time and energy to really work on?

My writing. And being a better human being.

Are you money poor, love poor, time poor or freedom poor?

My pessimistic self wants to say “all of the above.” But I would say “love poor,” because I lack a soul mate in my life.

What element of your partner’s character would you alter if you could?

See above.

What three things are you going to do next year that you’ve been meaning to do for ages but never got around to?

Finish a first draft of a novel!!!!!!! Actually, this involves establishing good work habits, which I am struggling to do.

Date someone for more than three weeks. (This depends on the cooperation of a complete and total stranger, so I’ll be winging it.)

Reading at least two of the classics I listed in my 10/23 post.

If your fairy godmother gave you three wishes, what would you wish for?

Peace and contentment. Continued good health for me, my family and friends. Three more wishes.

What one thing would you change about your living conditions?

I’d like to get my own little place, something that feels permanent.

How could the quality of your free time be improved?

Get rid of cable TV. (Oh, god, no, anything but that!)

Truly I need to add some structure to my daily life and develop strong work habits. When you are single, it is so easy to slip into a nonroutine routine. And all of us can say we don’t have enough time or energy for things. One writer friend of mine (who is now a successfully published author) would literally hang up the telephone and say, “I’ve got to go now. It’s time for me to write.” She would stick to a schedule, no matter what.

I also have an artist friend who recently retired, and would have had much more difficulty adjusting if it weren’t for the fact that she’s developed daily drawing habits that she can now fall back on.

It’s finally gotten through my thick skull that I can’t wait until the time is perfect to write – I have to make the best of where I am. And even if you do happen to have time, you may not be able to use that time wisely, if you haven’t developed good work habits,

What change have you made to your life recently that you’re most proud of?

I actually joined a gym last year and now exercise regularly.