Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because there is no pressure, no religious observation, and no compulsory shopping for gifts. It’s all about the turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. As the hero of Mary McCarthy’s novel, Birds of America, hilariously observes, it is basically just a harvest fest. (I enjoyed this satiric novel and wrote about it here.) I do love a good harvest fest.
But, alas, we may not have a good holiday this year. Every happy family is alike, and we have identical bad colds. One gets the cold, all get it. As the least ill person in the house, I bicycled to the box store to buy cold pills–and had to show my ID. At first I thought I was being carded by a moron, but it turns out they scan the ID, presumably so you don’t go home and make meth. Although meth is a problem, I wonder if the lawmakers watched too much Breaking Bad.
Oh, well, at least we have decongestants so we can breathe and plan our holiday reading!
Yes, the “Best of” lists are already showing up, and I pore over them with fascination, but I plan to stay peacefully at home and read books off the shelves. Often on holidays I’ve read old potboilers like Edna Ferber’s Giant (loved it!) and Rona Jaffe’s The Best of Everything (liked it!). They’re page-turners, pretty well-written, and distract you from obnoxious relatives.
This year I’m going for something different, possibly short, not necessarily by women, and not necessarily a blockbuster. Here is my stack of books.
1. The first books follows my usual holiday blockbuster M.O. I have started reading the Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Ferber’s 1929 novel, Cimarron, an intriguing novel about the Oklahoma “land rush.” The main characters, Yancey Cravat, a lawyer and newspaper editor, and his wife Sabra, the pampered daughter of a wealthy Kansas family, are very believable and likable. Yes, this book is a blockbuster, but it is so much fun. Ferber won the Pulitzer Prize for So Big, a remarkable novel about a woman farmer.
2. I’ve long meant to read Saki. And so I picked up this Dover edition of The Chronicles of Clovis, a collection of his short stories about a witty socialite named Clovis. The book is blessedly short, and it even has an introduction by A. A. Milne.
3. Violet Trefusis is best known for having been Vita Sackville-West’s lover, but she was also a writer, and her novel Hunt the Slipper is a romantic comedy with a twist. I am looking forward to reading her 1951 novel Pirates at Play, which also looks very witty.
4. D. J. Enright’s Academic Year, a satire about three expatriate Englishmen teaching in Egypt, has been on our shelves for years. I only know Enright as a reviser of Moncrieff’s translation of Proust, but I love academic satires. My husband is sicker than I am, though, and he pounced on it and said, “Maybe I’ll read it on Thanksgiving.” Okay, he can read it first.
5. l am a great fan of Enid Bagnold’s books, and especially enjoyed The Loved and Envied, a bold novel about a group of aging upper-class friends. I am not particularly horsey, but I did love the Elizabeth Taylor movie of National Velvet, so picked up this paperback for 90 cents (a weird price) at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale.