Greetings and welcome to the Krampus is Coming to Town Edition of You Are What You Read.
Is the Elf on the Shelf no longer effective in terrifying your Little Ones into appropriate behavior in hopes of scoring big on the morning of the 25th? You all should be aware of the Elf on the Shelf by now. He is a creepy little elf doll with a smug grin who moves around your house monitoring your child’s behavior which he then reports back to The Big Man. Think a Yuletide version of a North Pole KGB Agent. It’s a doll. It moves around your house. It reports into Headquarters. If you aren't toeing the party line there is consequence. There is nothing Merry or Bright about any of that.
May I instead ask you all to think about the Alpine tradition of Krampus? Krampus comes to town in the mountains of Austria and Germany on the night of the 5th with his much kinder road buddy St. Nicholas. However, he is the polar opposite of Kindly Old Saint Nick who is in town to put candy in shoes. Krampus, on the other hand, is kicking some Bad Child Behind, thrashing them with sticks and if they are truly awful, those naughty little Kinders get shoved into the basket that he wears on his back for the trip to the Underworld where Krumpus spends the other 364 days of the year. Once there, it’s a pretty good bet that he is going to get himself some Badly Behaved Brat Barbecue.
Krumpus actually is a product of the Good Old Pagan days before Christianity. His name originates from the word Krampen which means claw and he is thought to be the son of the Norse god of the Underworld whose name is appropriately enough Hel.
Who needs a Creepy Clown when you can have some Krampus? You can read all about him on Smithsonian Magazine.
This week we have some romance, indiscretions, more Hamilton (I just don’t get the fuss), a curmudgeon, Mississippi, some jewels a haunting, and a whole lot of passion.
Amanda is listening to Stormswept by Sabrina Jeffries. "The first thing you'll notice about this audiobook is that the reader has an accent. It took me a few minutes to adjust, but I'm glad I stuck it out —— the book is about an English Lady who marries a Welsh Squire. I wouldn't have gotten such an immersive experience in the book without the narrator. Rhys returns from the Continent penniless and angry after his father's estate is stolen. He unwittingly falls in love with Lady Juliana, the daughter of his bitter enemy. After a single night of wedded bliss, she wakes up alone and her husband missing: her brothers forced her husband into service in the British navy against his will. Rhys believes his wife betrayed him and six years later, he returns seeking revenge. Obstacles arise in men vs. women, servant vs. master, and Welsh vs. English in this tale. It's not the best romance novel I've read, but it's an interesting historical era to explore with the Welsh resistance against English rule.”
Sweet Ann has just watched the documentary Weiner. “This documentary chronicles the hoped for comeback of Anthony Weiner in the 2016 Mayoral race in New York City. It will grab you from the first scene and keep you riveted until the final credits. Anthony Weiner had to resign from congress in 2011 because of sexting. He had the support of his famous wife, Huma Abedin, vice chairman of Hilary Clinton's 2016 Presidential campaign. She stayed with him after the first sexting photos came out and was his big supporter for his Mayoral run. His idealistic campaign manager thought they could easily navigate his past indiscretions and he would become the Democratic nominee, but when more pictures came out and he had to withdraw his Mayoral candidacy. It was difficult to watch his young enthusiastic campaign team come to the realization that their candidate once again could not control himself. It also chronicles his marriage during this difficult time and it was torturous watching Huma navigate her husband's indiscretions. This is a very thought provoking well-presented documentary."
Kaitlin from the Rock is back! “It's been so long since I've responded to this! Quite possibly this is due to the fact that I have totally hopped aboard the Hamilton soundtrack bandwagon and have been listening to it NONSTOP (a little Hamilton track listing reference there!). And on a long ride to NJ for work, I listened to the whole thing, start to finish. I absolutely love the music, but the history itself is amazing. You really get to know the figures of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and understand the events that built up to the fatal duel —— many of which I had forgotten about or didn't pay enough attention to in school (shameful, I know!). I usually have a hard time enjoying musicals if I haven't seen them, but this has definitely become one of my all-time favorites. I've also been very slowly making my way through A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. It has been a wonderful choice after the last few thrillers I read in the fall. Ove is an overly logical, highly practical, very grumpy curmudgeon--he just wants to be left alone and for everyone around him to follow the rules of the complex where they live. But then a family moves in next door, and in doing so, force him to come out and help his neighbors--despite his best intentions to avoid them. This has been such an enjoyable book for me--one of the few books where I've actually marked a few favorite lines and sections. I'm only about 20 pages from the end, and I'll be sad when it ends!”
Barbara M not reading about France, Paris or Nazis. Discuss. “I recently read a lovely little book, Miss Jane by Brad Watson, loosely based on the life of his great-aunt. Miss Jane Chisolm was born in rural Mississippi at the beginning of the 20th century with a congenital abnormality that made her incontinent, impossible to have normal sexual relations or children. This totally alienated her from society. As a result Jane became an astute observer of animals, nature and people. In spite of her difficulties, Jane develops into a caring, self-aware woman who accepts her fate and lives a full productive life. The writing is beautiful and compelling. Watson’s descriptions of country life are vivid and his characters well-developed. What might have been an unbearably sad story was told in such a delicate way that the overwhelming feeling at the end was not one of pity but of satisfaction of a life well lived. Thank you B.G. for the recommendation.”
Diane is here with another pretty book this week. 20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes. “The book is just filled with magnificent jewels created for royalty, movie stars, and notable ladies from the 20th Century. Each lady’s portrait and their biography also includes the stories behind the jewels. There are works of art by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Harry Winston which are described in detail with close-up photos and original drawings.”
Steph is savoring one of my favorite memoirs of the year. “Ever so slowly, I am reading Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. It is a masterpiece! Truly one of the best author biographies I’ve ever read. I think even someone who didn’t know much about her work would enjoy it—Franklin is a marvelous writer, and in her research has found just the right details to outline Jackson’s complicated life. You’d think I wouldn’t be able to put it down, but it’s just the opposite—I find I can only read 20-30 pages at a time. It’s so rich, and so emotionally intense, that my brain can only absorb so much in one go. So slowly, slowly, I go, loving every page!”
The Always Delightful Pat S has been raving about a book with nary a cartel in sight: Avid Reader by Robert Gottlieb. “This memoir is about passion: passion for what you do, passion that defines not only what you do, but how you live your life. And it just so happens that Mr. Gottlieb's passion is publishing. Long heralded as one of the superstars of American publishing, Mr. Gottlieb's joyful memoir describes his meteoric rise in the publishing field beginning in the second half of the last century. Having graduated Columbia, done a stint at Cambridge, Gottlieb arrives back in America with wife and baby and no job. Stumbling into Simon & Schuster armed with talent listed as 'avid reader' and Robert Gottlieb had arrived home. Curious about all aspects of the industry-particularly editing and marketing-Gottlieb became Editor of S&S by the age of 32. A few short years later, he left S&S for Knopf, where once more, success followed success. Not too long after, Si Newhouse tapped him as editor for New Yorker magazine. After five years there, he once more returned to Knopf. Gottlieb shares his story with charming anecdotes of the writers he has had the privilege of editing, naming many of the literary lions of the last sixty years-Joseph Heller, Robert Caro, Jessica Mitford, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, John LeCarre, Michael Crichton, Nora Ephron, Bruno Bettelheim-and the list goes on. But it is Gottlieb's' sheer enjoyment of, and exuberance for what he does that calls out to the reader: What a life!"
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from that State that has not won a game against my beloved Buckeyes in 1833 days with some final thoughts and of course, The Playlist. What’s good Pats? “I wonder what Carl Jung would have to say about the resurgence of Krampus over the last decade in the American collective unconscious? Maybe you’ve seen the 2015 movie, Krampus. I have not, but I’ve no doubt that Hollywood got Krampus all wrong. There are still some Austrian villages that celebrate the 1,500 year-old pagan holiday Perchten by donning elaborately carved wooden devil masks, and claws for hands, shrouding their bodies in a dense, hairy coat. They parade around the village re-enacting pagan rituals designed to disperse the ghosts of winter.
The resurgence of Krampus festivals has been growing over the past decade. There are a number that are celebrated in the U.S., in fact there will be a Krampus festival in Detroit tonight. It resembles more of a Bacchanalian festival, chock-full of boozed up people, various outrageous performances and a visit by Krampus. It culminates with a hefty donation of new toys and money to support children’s charities of Detroit. I will not be attending. Instead I’ll be home talking to my children about the latest, modern obsession we have for child behavior modification. You know what I’m talking about… Santa’s small, creepy-smiling stool pigeon, The Elf on the Shelf.