Ah, Christmas holidays. That special time of year filled with endearing family spats, sunburn that leads to ridiculous tan lines, and what my friend likes to call ‘meat sweats’ from days spent overeating at the beach, park, or token relative’s bottle- or cat-strewn backyard. A time to tie tinsel around a harassed domestic pet, sleep in, visit intoxicated friends, perhaps put in a bit of god-time, and last, but not least, get stuck into some HOLIDAY READING.
No, dear reader, my cat did not just walk over my keyboard – those capitals are intentional. HOLIDAY READING. Were there ever two sweeter words? (Well, yes, probably: I DO, HE’S ALIVE and NOT GUILTY come to mind.) That glorious occupation of lying on a beach, in a hammock, in a bed, or in some sort of shady nook, and devouring, simply devouring a book, without feeling like you ought to be doing something else instead (writing that paper, meeting this deadline, doing your washing/ tax/best impression of your boss to amuse fellow co-workers).
Throughout the year, I fantasise about my future holiday reading. The knowledge that, for a couple of weeks in December and January, I will be able to pick up a book that has no direct relevance to my line of work and consume it guilt-free, sustains me. Over autumn, winter and spring I create a pile of books reserved for holiday reading, and call them my ‘forbidden’ books – forbidden because they are not pertinent to my study and work, because I don’t have enough recreational time to read them, and because, if I save them for ‘before-bed’ reading, they’ll stop me from getting the sleep I need to do aforesaid work and study. They must wait until summer. Over the months, this tower of forbidden books slowly grows; birthday presents, impulse buys, and second-hand finds all adding height to the pile. I place them in a prominent place in my bedroom, and, during the working day, look over from my computer and sigh wistfully at the sight of all that postponed literary pleasure. One day, I think to myself, one day we will be together.
This year, due to the generosity of friends and family, and my own pathological book-buying habits, the forbidden tower of literature was bigger than ever before. I’m pleased to say that working my way through it has been all I had hoped for and more. There’s been a few classics to catch up on (Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell), a couple of books lent to me (and, due to their untimely return, currently straining a few friendships) such as Kathy Acker’s postmodern Pussy, King of the Pirates and Sarah Holland-Batt’s book of poetry, Aria. Angela Carter’s Wise Children has now got a few Christmas-ham grease marks on it, my copy of Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore now contains cake crumbs, and if today goes to plan, Kalinda Ashton’s The Danger Game will hopefully be pleasantly soiled with a wine stain or two. There’s more to come as well: Isaak Dinesen, Margo Lanagan, Joseph O’Neill and Susan Sontag are amongst the other authors whose fine works I hope to mildly desecrate with evidence of my gluttonous holiday lifestyle.
Been looking forward to reading a book all year? Read something that’s blown your mind? Object to my use of capitals? Leave a comment KYDS.