“Would You Like Anything To Read?”

Read this…

"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find."

…and you have to believe that there is magic to be found in language, in literature, in childhood, in a genius' pure perception.  And, yes, even in Christmas – all this coming from a person who stood in line for an hour at Ross Dress For Less (I wasn't going to give up a Bill Blass sweater for $7), losing the will to live with each drop of sweat.

These two paragraphs were written by Dylan Thomas (I was always sorry that his first and last initials were "DT") and  taken from his semi-autobiographical story, "A Child's Christmas In Wales" – about as precious a jewel as can be found in any library.

Dylan Thomas just might be my favorite writer – he's written things which make my eyes spin from their sockets out of sheer joy.

Every holiday season, I read, watch and listen to 'ACCIW' – making my holidays a season for the senses:  I read the book (first edition, babies!), I listen to Thomas himself reading the work, and I watch the adaption (they did a wonderous job):

I do this every year, and bid you do the same.

"'Go on to the Useless Presents.'

"'Bags of moist and many-colored jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound…'"

Happy holidays – may they bring you many 'useless presents'!

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8 responses to ““Would You Like Anything To Read?”

  1. Wow, that is a beautiful passage! That book looks amazing. Thanks for writing about it! I'll have to see if I can get my hands on it before Christmas.

  2. Read The Book! Contemporary holiday anguish will evaporate – completely! And hearing him read the story (you can buy the casette – or CD, now – at any Barnes & Noble, etc.) is positively musical experience.

  3. Hurrah for Useless Presents! All gifts should be useless; that is, useless as anything but an expression of joy. A practical gift is merely assistance, like advice: "here, you really should wear these mittens", "now you have the tools to put up that shelf in the hall", "this will really improve your coffee-making skills".
    I usually think that a present should be something the recipient wants to buy for him- or herself, but would never do because it's too frivolous.

  4. I think joy trumps religion – Christmas is merely an 'expression of joy'. Any child would tell you that. I've always thought that Dylan Thomas was a rather unusual mouthpiece for childhood, but I've never read such a complete understanding of that particular state of mind.

  5. I think I need this now… lots and lots of holiday stress 'round these parts. Thanks for the encouragement to go out and nab a copy, Aubrey.

  6. When my husband was doing his Masters at University of Wales-Swansea College, he lived three streets over from the place DT describes in this book. He roomed in a crumbling old uninsulated Victorian house, and one winter it got so cold his toilet froze.

  7. Good God!
    He never sat down on it did he?

  8. I forget what they did…I think the problem was the pipes were on the outside of the house and they had to thaw them out somehow. Too bad DT never wrote about frozen toilets. He probably would've mixed drinks in it.

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