I’m usually a grouch during Christmas because I’m almost always broke and get extremely defensive when I turn up to family gatherings without gifts to offer. I also despise the commercialism behind the whole thing. Without getting too Dickens on you, I enjoy the holidays but not when it’s overshadowed with shallow obligations. This year, however, I found the most meaningful gift I’ve ever given.
As many of you know, my friend Roger reads shitty books. What you may not know is that he bitches at me like a pouty girlfriend for never reading his suggestions. I finally read The Last Picture Show when he placed his copy in my hand and sent me away with it, calling it a “unifying theory” between the books he reads and the ones I do. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Larry McMurtry is an author who is accessible to infrequent readers and critics who use a pencil for a bookmark. So, on Christmas Eve, I raced all over town to purchase copies for my mama, daddy, step-daddy, sisters, and soon-to-be brother in law. I recognize how this last-minute gift sweep might appear to be the very holiday glut I rail against, but let me explain its depth. You see, one of my fondest memories of high school was devouring book after book after book. These were terrible novels: space operas and borderline young adult works by authors like Simon R. Green and John Saul, but I was completely immersed in them, and I really enjoyed hiding somewhere and ignoring all my responsibilities. When I’d emerge from my literary binges, I usually had my friend Chad to discuss said trashy novels. When I’d vanish from social sight, he’d already be burrowed somewhere, sitting cross-legged and hunched over the exact same paperback. Together, Chad and I consumed dozens of throw-away books, and I still hold those ridiculously teenaged analyses as a peaceful and satisfying time.
No one in my family is serious reader, but The Last Picture Show is, as Roger so eloquently put it, a unifying theory, and I hope that by reading it at the same time, there can be something common among us to share and to offer a little intellectual ownership of the likes I enjoyed as a kid.
I explained all of this to my family, and their reactions were reserved and unsure, willing but not completely committed. All except my older sister. She was mesmerized by the idea, and I feel this was the first Christmas in a long time that wasn’t forced. Sigh.
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