As Christmas approaches, the television airwaves are deluged with a new crop of delightfully mind-numbing holiday movies. I enjoy a sappy Lifetime movie as much as the next girland I'm a dude. Laugh it up; I've got no shame. But if you're like me, you occasionally want to experience stories in a way that's a bit more traditional. I'm talking, of course, about those antiquated devices known as books.
Every now and again, it's nice to experience the classics in the classical manner. Why not let this be the year that you brush up on your Christmas reading? Whether it's for the first time or you're revisiting an old favorite, do yourself a favor and read someor allof these selected pieces. None of them is excessively long. They are bite-sized morsels of literary good cheer (well, mostly good cheer) that you can devour along with your favorite seasonal goodies. I've taken the liberty of pairing each reading with an appropriate noshing partner. I'll take an additional liberty and recommend that you purchase your Christmas literature from my friends at Lemuria Books in Banner Hall. The staff is knowledgeable and personable, and if you ask nicely, they might even gift wrap your purchase.
"Yes, Virginia, There Really is a Santa Claus," Francis Pharcellus Church (Delacorte Press, 1992, $9.95)
This is classic Christmas newspaper editorial. It has it all: beautiful, season-affirming words, childlike innocence, and eloquent language. Read it while savoring a cup of hot cocoa, and let the words warm your soul.
"A Letter from Santa Claus," Mark Twain ("A Classic Christmas," HarperOne, 2009, $14.99)
Mark Twain was truly one-of-a-kind. In this letter to his daughter, the man known for his down-home wit and sarcasm doesn't let the fact that he is writing something that's truly sweet stop him from sprinkling it with bits of manipulative morbidity. Have some warm chocolate chip cookies (preferably homemade, of course) and cold milk with this one.
"A Christmas Memory," Truman Capote (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2006, $17.95)
This bittersweet story about an unconventional friendship touches on notes of hard work and simple pleasures. Read it while enjoying a fruitcake (made from scratch, not the stereotypical holiday re-gifter) and maybe a little bit of whiskey.
"A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens (Candlewick Press, 2006, $6.95)
Sure, we all know the story. It's been told a thousand times in a thousand ways, with varying degrees of success and schmaltz. But you haven't truly experienced it until you've heard it in Dickens' words. Read it while eating a figgy pudding. What exactly is a figgy pudding? Beats me. How does one go about making a figgy pudding? How the heck should I know? Make some pudding and throw some frickin' figgies in it. All I know is it sounds British and Christmassy, and is therefore, perfectly appropriate for this classic tale of redemption.
"The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry (Collins Design, 2006, $15.99)
This is the kind of story that makes writers' blood boil. Why? The story is so simple, so beautiful, so ... darn right frustrating because the average writer knows that the sum total of every word he ever writes will never have the kind of impact that this little Christmas love story manages to achieve. If after reading it for the first time you don't feel your heart broken in all the right ways, you might as well cash in your humanity chips at the cage, people. If you've read it before, read it again. Please? It's lovely; it's timeless; it's important. Guys, make it a date and read it with someone special. You can bring the dressing for her turkey ... only to find that she sold the turkey to buy you a ... a ... sniff ... excuse me; I have something in my eye.
"SantaLand Diaries," David Sedaris ("Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays," Back Bay Books, 1995, $19.99)
You think your job is humiliating? Chances are, you've got nothing on Sedaris. This nonfiction piece examines his stint as an elf at Macy's during the holidays. It's cynical, side-splitting and occasionally horrifying. Read this one over a Jack and Coke. Go easy on the Coke and stir with a candy cane, orif you're feeling particularly bitterforget the Coke and replace it with tears of bitterness as you reflect on your own memories of job-induced shame.