I dream of a world where gifts exist purely in the form of books. Christmas would be a breeze, for both recipients and givers.
Unwanted presents would be a thing of the past. An end to the embarrassing task of feigning delight upon receiving scented draw-liners from Nana for the third year in the row. A great deal less stress when Aunt Cathy shows up unexpectedly and wants to know where you’ve displayed those hen-shaped candle holders you stashed away in disgust last Boxing Day. Less landfill when you inevitably discard the cheap perfume from your brother that smells like a plastics factory.
Book-giving can be tailored to how well you know the recipient (compare, say, a coffee table book for the next door neighbour with a Stanislavski for your drama-student sister) and – importantly – when you wrap the gift, you end up with delightful rectangular-shaped package. In the age of 99 Popular Penguins at $9.95, you can afford to buy a few extra copies of, say, Persuasion, and you have a classy yet inexpensive gift to give when the unexpected guest arrives.
Right, so the space under your Christmas tree is populated by small brick-shaped objects wrapped in identical paper; you’ve bought The SMH Good Food Guide for your foodie uncle, Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence for your lit-loving sister, and the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness for your enlightened mother-in-law. Foolproof. Right?
It’s gift giving time. Your cousin, a dreadlocked photography student who wears vegan shoes has just gleefully unwrapped the glossy hardcover on contemporary Korean photography you tracked down for him, and you start peeling back the brown paper wrapping on his gift to you. “Ahhh!” you exclaim as you hold up a copy Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, “fantastic!”. An exposé of cruel slaughter practices and the environmental impacts of meat-eating. Guilt-inducing and bloodthirsty at the same time. Ho Ho Ho! This is followed by The South Beach Diet from your best friend, and the Commonsense Guide to Cooking from your husband. Oh dear.
So perhaps it isn’t realistic, but one can dream. And that’s what wishlists are for.
Dear Santa, please can I have…
A 1-year subscription to The Monthly, a magazine that has its finger on the pulse of Australia politics, culture and society, and with regular contributions from writers such as David Marr and John Birmingham.
The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy.
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
Ransom by David Malouf
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Bath Fugues by Brian Castro
Cabin Fever by Elizabeth Jolley
The Flood by JMG Le Clezio
The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Summertime by JM Coetzee
Literary Melbourne by Steve Grimwade
The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter
Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Storm and Honey by Judith Beveridge
And as far as my own gift-giving goes, it’s going to be a very literary Christmas.