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Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

I can hear the groans already but hear me out, OK?

It's not because I'm one of those early shoppers; I rarely hit the stores until the last minute. It's also not because I'm anxious to put out decorations; I dislike when anyone does that before mid-December. For me, it feels like the holiday is upon us because I'm currently re-involved in a massive book my daughter gave me for Christmas 2007 - "We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live" - a 2006 omnibus edition of the collected non-fiction of Joan Didion from 1961-2003.

I've lost count how many times I've returned to this brilliant leviathan. Because my wife or daughter (or sometimes both of them) gives me a tome of this size nearly every Christmas, I first devoured quite a bit back on 12/25/07.  I know I've re-read John Leonard's stunning sixteen page introduction alone at least ten times because my dated notes in the margins tell me so. Each return to an essay or longer piece uncovers a new treasure I'd previously missed. Didion's intellect, powers of observation and writing energize and demoralize me, often in the same moment.

Some years I can easily wolf through my doorstop disguised as gift. "Ten Years In The Tub" (2013) by Nick Hornby, for example, was a manageable 464 pages consumed with time to spare last December 25. Given its intellectual heft and 1200 pages, Didion's book exceeded my single day capacity; it deserves more processing time anyway. But on Christmas 2005, I'm guessing my wife may have regretted her gift to me. "The Beatles" by Bob Spitz is 855 pages - I don't think I stopped to eat that day. And our Christmas eve leftovers are really good.

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