I’ll admit it. Scrooge McDuck is not the ideal secret santa participant. A late gift (which might have got lost) and then a late blog thanks. Not good form at all. But, excuses aside, and fervently hoping that my gift to Ella (from Box of Books) still makes it past the (lovely, kind) post office employees, I’m going to tell you a bit about what I got.
The picture really doesn’t do it justice but you have to imagine my joy when I got, all the way from Dubai, a beautiful big stamp-covered brown-paper parcel with an early Christmas present which was, to be honest, maybe the best present I got at Christmas. Sorry P, I loved your present as well (Ok, yours was the best) but Ella’s was, as far as presents go, up there with P’s. So what did I get, you ask? Well, lots – a brilliant book, a lovely homemade journal (sturdy, just the right size and with a weathered-looking gloss – I used this on my holiday and am still using it), delicious Turkish Delight and a personal letter. The book was especially welcome because I’d read about it on Dorothy’s blog, looked for it online here and found that it was not available in South Africa. So imagine my surprise and delight when I found that Ella had seen me comment on The Braindead Megaphone (by George Saunders) and sent me her very own copy (which she had thoroughly enjoyed too). George Saunders is very clever, very funny and very readable – on war, Dubai, on Vonnegut, fiction and American life generally. I might even venture to say that this book could be life-changing – in the sense of changing the way that I think about writing. One chapter called ‘The Perfect Gerbil’ details the rising action that every story needs to have and there’s a whole graph which I won’t be able to describe to you but trust me, it’s simple and profound.
Here he is on war: “massacres and screaming and confusion and blood and death”. If that sounds a little heavy, he balances it with the reflection that war is also “the mammoth projection outward of the confused inner life of men”. Working here at the military for a year, I totally get that. Not just men projecting their aggression and anxiety onto others but the “mammoth projection outward”. You get the point.
Ok, I’m going to wrap this up now, but Ella (if you’re reading) thanks so much again and I really hope that your gift arrives soon. I did have to split the package into two (for postage reasons) which might have been confusing. But, well, I’ll email you. Next year (if the secret santa people will still let me play), I’ll be punctual. I promise.