Category Archives: the holidays

Reprint, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol date and publisher unknown $25 winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol date and publisher unknown $25 winecountrybooksnapa at gmail

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story.

– from the full text and images at Project Gutenberg A Christmas Carol

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Filed under Antiquarian, Christmas, the holidays

The Road to Hell

Every once in a while a friend will give me a stack of books. ‘If these are worth anything, sell them. If not, donate them,’ they say.

I work through them. I can say with confidence that popular fiction and mass market paperbacks are almost never worth a thing. I always check, though.

I love getting a window on their past reading lives- or their not-reading lives, as the case may be.  The road to overcrowded living room bookshelf hell or unusable garage hell is paved with beautiful brand-new books on child development, art, sex, religion, love, high literature, nutrition. They are throwing it all away, often unread, and it cracks me up.

We meant to inform ourselves, to learn, to mull, to take time to enjoy. We really did.

But Raising Your Child the <insert wise popular child development expert name here> – unopened. We all just muddle on through without Kafka, without a solid grounding in Italian language or the folklore of Ireland. We really meant to have at our mental fingertips those witticisms from the latest acerbic popular progressive- whose wisdom seems to be dated almost the minute we buy the book. And those volumes of classical homeschool curriculum with fresh shiny workbook to match? Not so much. Never even started.

I am grateful for this understanding. I am grateful to have been swamped with approximately two tons of books, one thousand cataloged and offered for sale in the past year and a half, certainly that many left to go through, with more speed I hope. And though I try to ‘be good,’ more lovely, lovely books are coming in from friends and book sales all the time.

Because of this experience, I have firmly resolved, in our own household, that no books shall be stored inside the house except those we are currently reading and a few truly valuable collectibles we choose to keep.

The public library shall be our bookshelf. All books shall be fodder for the book business, or donated posthaste.  It is hard to enforce- but I can assure you vigorous purges occur on a very regular basis.

And so, back to work.

 

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Filed under social currents, the book business, the holidays, the public library

Epiphany and the Magi

I love TS Eliot’s beautiful language and weary tone. As I read it  feels as if I am perpetually struggling home in a foul, foggy, freezing winter twilight, breathing air choked with coal smoke and auto exhaust, longing for hot tea and warm lamplight.

You can hear Eliot reading his Journey of the Magi here, a rare treat.*

It is wonderful to listen to the question the wise man asks, and ponder the double edge of The Holidays.  Be happy,  be gracious, enjoy OR ELSE!! This is a time of mass stress and guilt and acute consciousness of loss and lack in our personal lives and our world, right alongside the dictatorial mandate to celebrate the hope and beauty of various religious and natural events.

In the natural order of things, this should be a time of natural ‘death’- hunkering down, resting, feeling a little melancholy, to make way for spring’s rebirth. Instead we work twice as hard to ‘get ready’ for the season and find it is over before we even enjoyed it.

We are left with regrets-  why did I allow myself to be taken in by obligation, guilt trips and marketing when I KNEW I wouldn’t enjoy myself and that nobody else cared about those details that left me chasing my tail when I should have been just enjoying? Why didn’t I follow my instinct to do less and love and enjoy more?

Instead of hibernating, getting the rest and communion and connection we crave, NEED, to sustain us until spring, our entire nation is not just fighting to be super productive as always, but taking on the obligations and dreams of The Holidays on top- no wonder we are all so dang depressed in January!

A little like the exhausted, wondering narrator, I have doggedly pursued the joy of this season, telling myself that it ain’t over til Epiphany. I just ordered babies for the King cake.

But a voice says ‘Doesn’t the tree look sad, standing there well beyond its season? Take it down. Get on with your life. It’s over now. You know you’re tired. You didn’t start early enough, you didn’t enjoy enough, and now it is over.’  Get thee behind me!

I have worked hard. I have done the right thing, sometimes for not much reward. And yes, I am tired. I am glad to ponder the double edge with the wise man.

One gift that will never be beyond this season is The Books! The holiday has given us time and resolve to stop frantically trying to force the new home into shape and just enjoy. So what do I do when I have a few quiet moments? I work on the books, of course! I’ve been going through the collection yet again as we move it into our new digs, and came across this sweet little book.

The Star of Bethlehem Jeanne K. Hanson $10

The Star of Bethlehem Jeanne K. Hanson $10

The author discusses the astronomical possibilities and the mysteries of symbolism and prophecy surrounding the Star of Bethlehem that led the Three Kings on their journey.  The drawings by Glenn Wolff are very sweet, but what I loved most about it was the snippets of medieval ballads, plays, poetry and scripture throughout, including Eliot’s Journey.

I truly enjoyed stopping to ponder, in a way I should have been pondering since Thanksgiving. Because we were moving, I did give myself some freedom from the world of endlessly stressful holiday to-do lists… but I still didn’t ponder enough or enjoy enough. We were moving, packing, unpacking, rushing, buying, running here and there. Perhaps next year I will do better… Meanwhile, I have dear weary Eliot** and it ain’t over til Epiphany.

*Yes, I know about his racism, his misogyny, his anti-semitism and I absolutely do not approve. But I fell in love with these works before I knew, and we share a culture (sort of) in the Episcopal church. In spite of his airs and snobbery, please, please let me enjoy Prufrock and Journey and Wasteland on their own sad and cynical terms?

** See *

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Filed under Christmas, History, Poems and Poets, the holidays, winter