We're counting down the last few days until Christmas with our free BabyLit Christmas Carol Calendar, and getting more excited by the day. Staff writer Chris Wrenn shares one of his favorite gifts of all time.
Everyone who knows me knows that I tend to bring up authors in conversations, and they tend to be the same ones again and again. I’ll reference Kenneth Rexroth and Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison and Gary Snyder if my friends allow it. Above all I talk bout Shirley Jackson for her articulation of modern anxiety, and Kenneth Patchen for his unflinching morality.
I love books and have a small collection that I value more than most anything.
Likely, one person who knows this best is Jenevieve; she is my best friend whom I’ve known since we were little kids. I always struggle to explain our relationship, so I won’t say too much. We have, for nearly thirty years now, lived in the same city and we have a relationship few understand. It’s intuitive and it’s close. She has heard me carry on about writers more than anyone else, except maybe my partner, and because she is a nurse rather than a literary academic, I’ve often felt she was humoring me. She probably was.
But she was listening.
One Christmas I woke to find my stocking stuffed and two gifts under the tree from Jenevieve. There were the usual chocolates and toys in the stocking, but the two gifts were something I cherish to this day. The first gift was a library-bound copy of Jackson’s The Hangsaman, the book that fictionalizes her psychotic break during her college years, and the only Jackson book I’d not yet read. I love this read. The second was a limited print of Patchen’s Hallelujah Anyway that she had ordered from across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a lovely collection of illustrated poems that balance whimsy with fierce social criticism.
I don’t remember what I gave her that year; she likely doesn’t either. But to this day there are only a few books that face out on my bookshelves and those two are among them. I don’t face them out because they are particularly beautiful books, but when I see them I’m reminded that I’ve got a great friend in this world. That’s a gift I get every day.