Now Reading: Christmas Retrospective…

Merry Christmas! Peace on earth. Goodwill to all men. ‘Tis the season for snowmen, singing and saviours, where we remember sacred things, indulge the worst of our consumerism, love our loved ones and try not be jerks…

Insert ironic and misogynist remark here.

My wife Andrea and I have been celebrating the holidays in our beloved hometown of Adelaide, where the sun shines, the water tastes like old pennies and the parking is affordable. Our friends and families have welcomed our temporary return, offering desserts in an almost competitive arrangement, upping the stakes at each point. So far there has been larger and larger portions of mince pies, cake, pudding, tiramisu, rocky road and ice cream, which I have felt the need to counter with longer and longer runs. It’s only reasonable to assume that by the new year, I’ll be eating a pudding for breakfast before running 20kms afterwards, (with predictable and rather unpleasant ‘returns’).

Andrea and I began Christmas morning at midnight, where we helped assemble a basketball ring and a trampoline as our niece and nephews slept. While the job took three hours to complete, we ate the cookies left out for Santa Claus for the first time, entering into a sacred tradition and becoming something rather mythic in the process. Quite frankly, I am Santa.

So as Christmas has come, and gone, countless stockings filled with hardcovers and paperbacks, it seemed a good time to look back over the last few months and remember what I read…

Over the winter, I was drawn to books that reflect the mood of the season, so I read Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein… even while on vacation in sunny Hawaii. The story of ‘the modern day Prometheus’ has been my favourite book since I read it at fifteen years of age, in part due to the knowledge that this intense and vivid deconstruction of human nature was crafted by a girl of the same age. In fact, Mary Shelley became a hero of mine. I envied and admired this daughter of a brilliant writer who ran away from home with a romantic, told ghost stories with Byron and invented science fiction. Frankenstein was as imaginative and disurbing as ever, no matter how incongruous the tropical surroundings.

After returning home to Australia, I finished Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The novel’s relevance is arresting given its reflections on desire, gender prejudices, moral consequence and skepticism, (plus, when I see the Joe Wright film next year, I want to be able to say the book is better). I then visited Oliver Twist again, with the usual Dickensian breed of whimsy, misery and providence (that book is also better than the film, it has more killing and less musical numbers).

In contrast to the historical fiction, I changed tack and read Andy Briggs’ rebook Tarzan: the Greystoke Legacy. Brigg’s novel is a recrafting of the classic pulp adventure character for a contemporary teen audience. As a boy, I was given Burrough’s original Tarzan of the Apes as a Christmas present, which I read until the cover fell off. So I admire this relevant and reverent reinterpretation, with Tarzan and Jane and Kerchak and murderous rebels and iPhones, sharply written for Gen Z readers.

Honestly, there are books I started then lost interest in, such as George Elliot’s Middlemarch (I will try again later), Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels (I leant the book to someone) and The Hobbit… which sits on the nightstand and remains unread… and for all those aboard the good ship Tolkien, yes, I am an ignoramus and will read those things one day…

Then the sun came out, just a little, in spring and I was struck with the urge to catch up on some comic books. First, I began the second series in Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy, which continues the rock star author’s quirky tale of a dysfunctional family of morbid superheroes. Alas, I only possess the first issue, and must now embark on my annual comic book store visit.

As summer dawned, I also caught up on the comic book Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn, the story of a plague that wipes out all mammals with a Y chromosome, leaving a lone male survivor named Yorick. Poor Yorick must fend off myriad attempts at murder and seduction as he searches for his girlfriend in a world of mourning women. Apart from exploring every adolescent male’s gender-related fantasies and nightmares, this book is smart and self-aware, with measures of Shakespearean window dressing. The central premise while reminiscent of the unfortunate rebuff ‘not if you were the last man on earth’, actually plays off the novel The Last Man, which returns us nicely to the writing of Mary Shelley…

God bless

A

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