This Is the Last of Them: Books in December

A while ago I read The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer, for book club, but I forgot to write it down and therefore didn't blog about it at the time. It's about a handful of New York mothers who variously work, don't work, volunteer, don't volunteer, bake, don't bake, have great marriages or disappointing ones. It's about the choices women make about work and life, and about how you sometimes find you've made life-changing choices without really knowing it at the time.

Unfortunately nothing happens in the first 92 pages of this book. There are chapters and chapters and chapters of character development and backstory until you wish you could step into the book with a handgun just to make something happen. Finally something happens, there's a couple of chapters of action, and the book ends. It's all a bit boring and I probably wouldn't have finished it, if it weren't for the book club. Ironically I didn't end up going to the book club meeting, but I bet it was a good one. We always have more fun talking about books we didn't like, and despite the slowness of the story, this book provided plenty of discussion fodder for a group of urban mothers.

Heat Wave is a book "by" Richard Castle, the fictional protagonist of the TV series Castle. He's a well-connected mystery writer, played by Nathan Fillion, who shadows a sexy New York cop (Stana Katic) for research. The book is about a magazine writer who shadows a sexy New York cop for research. It was very disconcerting to read a book written by a fictional character, about a second-order fictional character who was clearly based on the first-order fictional character (who in turn is played by an actor who I follow on Twitter, providing yet another layer of reality/unreality confoundment). But besides that it was a clever and funny mystery very much in keeping with the TV show.

Another torturous read courtesy of the book club (it's been a bad year): Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn is a history of Santa Claus written as an autobiography, from the character's origins as a child named Nicolas who would be a bishop and later a saint, all the way to the portly elf we know today. Along the way Guinn explains how Santa manages to make all the toys and get all the way around the world so fast. He might explain some other stuff, but I stopped reading around the time Santa Claus convinced Queen Isabella to sponsor Christopher Columbus's search for a better route to India. The book is full of such Forrest Gumpian connections. The funny thing is, all the people that old St Nick befriends, including King Arthur, and Attila the Hun, share the same early-21st century belief system as Santa (and, I imagine, most of the readers of this book).

I love Christmas and I love Santa Claus—well, I don't mind him—but this book is simple-minded glurge. I would enjoy a real history of Santa Claus: how his story has changed throughout history, and what the changes mean in the context of their time. This is not that book.


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