Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: The Official Guide to Christmas in the South

A Fair Trade Book [Moved from Blogjob]

Title: The Official Guide to Christmas in the South, or If You Can't Fry It Spraypaint It Gold

Author: David C. Barnette

Illustrations: line drawings by Donna Mehalko

Publisher: Morrow / Harper Collins

Date: 2004

ISBN: 978-0-06-085053-1

Length: 125 pages

Quote: “There are two kinds of Christmas china: special and everyday. People from places like New York might call 'everyday Christmas china' an oxymoron. We might call people who hang dream catchers in their prosperity corners oxymorons, too.”

Far be it from David C. Barnette to tell his family to unplug the Christmas Machine and reconsider what they claim to think is the Reason for the Season. Instead, he offers a lighthearted discussion of preposterous Christmas excess. (And if you think August is too early to start thinking about Christmas, you're obviously not acquainted with the kind of Christmas discussed in this book. August is almost too late.)

Boldly cover all trees in the yard with fairy lights! (“In the December fog, a pilot flying overhead reported...[a decorated lawn] as a forest fire. That's the Christmas spirit.”)

Give everyone homemade candy...the more difficult to make, the better! (“What, pray tell, is divine about a candy that...can only be made under the rarest of climate conditions?” That's what, of course. Divinity seldom turns out well, therefore it's a more impressive present than pralines or fudge.)

Spray-paint things gold: “Spoiled fruit is a perennial favorite (sometimes literally, as oranges shrink little).”

Give presents to everybody: “Postman...makes sure neighbors don't accidentally see your bankruptcy papers. Call Omaha Steaks...Count the minister's gift as part of your tithe...[Teachers] compare gifts. Make it good. You're not going to be graded on a curve.”

Decorate the house with an eye to possible magazine photo sales. “Children often bring home adorable handcrafted ornaments. They should by all means be allowed to decorate a tree...moved to the back, back sunroom. The publicly viewed Christmas tree must: 1. Be visible...preferably through beveled glass...3. Sit under the highest ceilings in the house...5. Be wired to a separate breaker.”

In short, if you want to be like the people to whom Barnette seems to be trying to give a hint, spend the whole year wasting money on one evening party and one morning display of conspicuous consumption.

The good news is that, although there certainly are plenty of Southerners who do some of these things, nobody really does all of them. In fact, there are Southerners whose Christmas trees are strictly and literally for the birds. We may be considered eccentric, and I'm sure my own dear mother's having grown up in the North is frequently mentioned behind our backs in December, but we exist.

Is there a middle ground? Is it possible to give people nice presents and write them nice thank-you letters without owning a single string of fairy lights? Of course it's's just not as funny as the excesses documented in this Christmas-card-size, cartoon-illustrated book.

What's a Fair Trade Book? As readers who may have followed me here from remember, a Fair Trade Book is any book that's widely available secondhand, whose author is still alive, that my site (either of them, now) offers for sale at a price from which 10% can be sent to the author or a charity of his or her choice. Normally that's $5 per book and $5 per package for shipping, for a total of $10, which makes it worthwhile to send the author $1.

The Official Guide to Christmas in the South is a Fair Trade Book. As usual, the online price is $10 for one copy (Barnette or his charity would get $1). In this case, consolidating the shipping fee would allow you to order a dozen copies for $65 (Barnette or his charity would get $12). Payments may be sent to salolianigodagewi @ yahoo, or Priscilla King c/o Boxholders, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia 24251-0322.