5 Suggestions for Holiday Reading

Need something to help pass the time on the plane or train? There are a few works of fiction with holiday scenes that I'd like to recommend.


Wow, am I ever low on energy. Have been since Friday morning, which, I'm afraid, had something of a deleterious effect on my weekend shenanigans. Am I getting swine flu? I certainly have a cold sore--which, NO, does not mean I have the herpes STD. These puppies have been breaking out on my lips (rather like heads might pop out of the rooms in a mad house) since I was three years old; they make their disturbing appearances whenever I'm run down. Terribly attractive, let me tell you.

* * *

Okay, now, allow me to summarize my weekend.

Friday night: Date with Hot Band Guy.

Saturday night: I met some dude at a party who got my number ...

Sunday night: While laying here exhausted, watching

"The Maltese Falcon," I was IM-ed by some feller I met at speed-dating ... who wanted to tell me how he's discovered my blog and, it

seems, at this point, knows more about me than I know about myself.

I love it when that happens.

* * *

But, my lovelies, the full update on HBGand all the rest will have to wait a bit. Today, instead--in case you need something to read on the plane or train, if you're traveling for Thanksgiving, and while there's still some time for you to run to your favorite local bookstore to make a purchase--I'm going to recommend some books that either take place during the holidays, have some key holiday scenes (and may even have some relation to dating+copulating+cohabiting).

Here we go:

1) The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen.

Hilarious, brilliant, energetic, and finally, in the end, touching. This novel tells the saga of a midwestern family people, peopled by: a pain-in-the-ass reticent grumpy father; an officious perky pain-in-the-ass mother; an oldest son who is a crazy uptight conventional banker-dude; a middle daughter who is a tightly-wound top-chef, who has hot lesbian sex mid-way through the book; and the youngest son, Chip (off the old block), a professor who was recently fired amid great ignominy after having an affair with one of his students--and then becoming obsessed with her. The key plot question of the novel is this: Will the family put aside their differences and reunite for one last Christmas? There is so much to hate about all the characters that you'll love it, and so much to like about them that you'll eventually come around to loving them. (Well, maybe not the banker. But most everyone else.) This novel is joyously, deliriously smart--without being pretenious or inaccessible--and so funny that I think you'll like it, if you just give it a chance.

(Also, Jonathan Franzen? If you're out there? Would you like to get it on?)

2) The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

You all know what it's about: The disaffected smack-talking lonely kid from New York gets kicked out of yet another prep school and spends three days wandering around Manhattan--going to a jazz club, hanging out with nuns, enduring a weird experience with a young prostitute, pining for his idealized childhood sweetheart Jane Gallagher and all the rest--while having a spiritual and psychological breakdown. Eventually--after a late-night and somewhat creepy visit with his beloved former English teacher--he meets up with his little sister, who helps him realize that ... well ... any ending to that sentence would probably take away from the wonderfulness of the book. Which will still, after all this time, make you laugh out loud at a few points; will still make you feel less alone in the world; and will still fill your heart with love at the end. What more could you want from a novel?

(Also, J.D. Salinger, if you're out there? Maybe we shouldn't get it on.)

3) Light Years, by James Salter

To what can I compare this novel--about the marriage between an architect who never quite becomes the man he once dreamed he would be, and his gorgeous wife, a sort-of life-artist who can create moments and experiences of exquisite beauty and yet may not really know how to live? It's kind of like a fine dining experience: The setting is gorgeous, the music is perfect, and throughout, there are small wondrous explosions of psychological pleasure as you recognize familiar sensual things (tastes, sounds, smells) presented in new ways. Ah! It's so hard describe. The writing is just so lovely. Read the first chapter or two, and if you're hooked by then, you'll love it. (And, oh yes, there are a couple of Christmases described in there--and lots of scenes of families eating. So it's seems appropriate Thanksgiving reading.)

(Salter, definitely, for sure, I want to make sweet love to you, sir. I don't care if you're about 107 at this point.)

4+5) The books of Melissa Bank

Melissa Bank is something of an American Helen Fielding: just as funny, but a bit smarter. She's also been compared to the masterful short-story writer John Cheever--not entirely accurately, if you ask me, but that does give you some sense of her sophistication. Her stories have been labeled "chick lit," but there are of far higher quality than your average pulpy paperback about someone who shops too much. Bank writes with heart, humor and grace about the difficulties of finding love--and keeping it. Her first collection, the run-away bestseller The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, is my favorite one, but her fairly similar follow-up, The Wonder Spot, is nearly as good--and it ends with a story set during the holiday season.

(Melissa and I have already ... well, no we haven't. But I've met her before, and I do love her! Melissa, will you marry me?)

Lovelies: your thoughts on my picks? Any books--perhaps newer ones--you'd like to mention?


dear commenters:

i'm running absurdly late today, as perhaps you can tell, so i'm going to have keep this short.

BUT ...

I'm hearing all of you who are recommending that I should follow my heart, age be damned--and as always, I really appreciate all the advice and encouragement! ... But maybe, as Madge suggests, I should make an effort to include more slots for guys who are, at the very least, my age (if not older) on the old dance card.


-HPP: You make some really excellent points. I want you on my debate team!

-JV: I totally get where you're coming from--the whole undeserving thing. really.

-And DC Sleeps Alone: Your observation is so astute it kind of scares me. Maybe more on all that soon.