In Iceland, the tradition of gifting books as presents is so deeply rooted that there is a word for the season: Jolabokaflod, the “Christmas Book Flood” If there was one holiday tradition I would love to import, this would be it. Finding the perfect book for everyone is such a joyful task, a challenge worth the effort when you get it right. Though it is highly personal and each book should really be hand-picked (see your local librarians and booksellers…) here is a brief guide to some of the best books for gifting, sharing, or just curling up and reading this season.
- Nathan Child
A version of this review originally appeared in the Aspen Daily News on December 21, 2018
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John Carpenter’s The Thing is a Christmas classic that makes It’s a Wonderful Life’ look like a pale sack of shame. Move over White Christmas, The Thing is a heartwarming, bone chilling terror fest that asks everyone to search for their inner humanity during the dark never ending winter that will eventually consume us all.
When it comes to classic Christmas films, holiday fare is driven either by a message of saccharine candy cane hope or is a kind of crass commercial cash grab where Santa jingles all the way to the bank. There are some exceptions, notably 1990’s Home Alone, where a child abandoned by his parents protects his home from burglars with a number of medieval torture devices. When left to his own devices, Kevin McAllister gorges on candy, watches an incredible 1930s gangster film, invades his family’s privacy and indulges himself in a spree of ultraviolent booby trapping that would make the Jigsaw Killer from Saw proud. For an entire generation ‘Home Alone’ defined the holiday season, where the only thing you could really expect is that your family won’t notice that you are missing and the only people who want to spend the holiday with you are moist criminals.
Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life remains the quintessential holiday classic, where a guardian angel saves a suicidal man and shows him exactly how he has made a difference in the world. Clarence the Angel gives us a glimpse into the nightmare fueled world of Pottersville where the rent is too high, job prospects are limited to working in a bar and jazz music has turned small town America into a neon version of Gomorrah. Pottersville might not be Las Vegas, it does seem to be way more interesting than Bedford Falls, where everything closes at sundown. While the depiction of depraved Pottersville might have horrified movie going audiences in 1946 most of us have grown accustomed to the mean as hell world of hyper-capitalism and have fully acquiesced to the demands of the Mr. Potters of work, industry and politics who hang heavy over our lives with iron fists of privation.
In contrast The Thing is a tale of cosmic horror set in deepest darkest Antarctica, where no one can hear you scream over the howling wind and temperatures never break -10 for months on end.
The message of The Thing, like It’s A Wonderful Life asks us to turn inward and examine our humanity this holiday season. What is it that makes us human? Love? Our ability to empathize? Or is it that we are distinct biological entities that do not want to violently assimilate, imitate and eventually eradicate all other carbon-based life in the universe?
The Thing highlights the idea that “it is better to give than to receive,” as everyone who receives the alien thing becomes a horrifying glop monster bent on consuming everyone and everything around them. Dogs, Scientists and even Norwegians are given an embrace from another world and become one this holiday season.
The Thing even has some great ideas for last minute holiday shoppers. What do you get the guy who lives in an icy area and has everything? A Flamethrower of course! It’s the tool that does everything, keeps you warm, stops the tentacle monster from beyond the stars and most importantly a flamethrower lets you know who your real friends are.
Finally The Thing shows us that the most important thing this holiday season are the people you spend time with. These people and the moments you create with them will last a lifetime. Even if these people may secretly be DNA stealing abominations from another world, hell bent on becoming you and stealing all of your human gravy.
Please come join us on December 19th for the Basalt Library’s very special presentation of John Carpenter’s The Thing a holiday classic that will stick with you- forever.
I don't want to spend the entire winter TIED TO THIS COUCH
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