Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's a mostly wonderful time of the year.

I admit it. The subject line?

Totally stolen.

But I am fully onboard with the sentiment. Not because I don't love the holidays. I really do. Christmas Eve is my absolute favorite of all the holidays - holy or otherwise. There's something about the anticipation of it all and the sappy memories I have of sitting in my parent's living room with just the lights of the Christmas tree on (1).

But this is also a time of year that, despite my best intentions, stresses me out. The excuses most often given for this do not really apply to me. I work very hard not to overspend my budget. I work very hard to plan gifts I think people will genuinely enjoy. I have greatly whittled down my shopping list to a very small circle, with bottles of wine and the above mentioned champ wishing others good holiday spirits.

I even like to shop (3).

Despite all these things working in my favor I always feel rushed (4). And stressed (4). And easily panicked (4). Even though I know in my head that everything will be as it needs to be, I always hope that this will be the year it all comes together more easily. More cleanly. More smoothly.

Perhaps next year Tiny Tim. Perhaps next year.

1. Later on, this very Rockwell scene was expanded to include three or five glasses of champagne...a tradition that has been continued my and Leopold's house, which really does help make the season bright. What? Don't judge me. You don't know me. You don't know my life (2).
2. This too is stolen, from one of my students. He's a totally wonderful nightmare who is bright, funny, engaged and capable of completely disarming me at any given moment. For the full effect please imagine a skinny, hyper-caffeinated white kid shouting, "You don't know me! You don't know my life!" in a raspy falsetto, all while gesticulating wildly. This is an average 8am for me.
3. For others. It is safe to say that I drive Leopold insane at this time of year. I'm the kid that asks for books for Christmas. it would only be worse if I were to ask for books wrapped in socks.
4. Because I am.


This past weekend involved a good chunk of time spent in airports and on airplanes. While there was certainly a fair amount of work waiting for me on my laptop and more in my bag, I took the little forced "life recess" as an opportunity to grab the paperback editions of a couple of books that I've been interested in reading for some time...just not enough to want to pay the hardcover price for them.

What can I say. There's economy is affecting all of us.

One of the books that I picked up was Julie Powell's Cleaving. While not quite a follow-up to Julie & Julia (1), in Cleaving Julie has decided to throw herself into the world of butchery in order to escape, to be perfectly frank, the train wreck that is her self-esteem.

The cover - and the author - want you to see this as a kind of meaty meditation on obsession and love and lust and relationships...shot through with recipes because, you know how you do.

But, ultimately, it really isn't. Or, that's not how I'm feeling about it as I continue to slog my way through its pages. Powell's Cleaving falls into that dangerous territory between confessional memoir and feel-sorry-for-me monologue. She renders herself as a fairly unlikeable and entirely self-destructive personality which, in terms of the writerly act of such a thing, is fairly brave. Perhaps more so when coming from an author who made something of a name for herself as being a kind of hapless young woman whose two anchors were her husband and Julia Child's enormous cooking tome.

Bravery, however, doesn't always equal good writing. Gutsy writing, sure. But not good.

1. And a book/movie combo that seems to have been neatly shuffled to the back of the "how food saved my life" shelf by the continuing fervor surrounding Eat, Pray, Love.