For no reason I can identify, this year it felt to me as though Christmas had arrived much earlier than usual, not in an annoyed "must they start putting up the reindeer right after Halloween" sort of a way, but in the sense of actively looking for opportunities to hear Christmas-ey music and to think Christmas-ey thoughts. Perhaps to counterbalance this festive feeling, I managed to put off my Christmas shopping even further than is my usual procrastinatory habit. It's all a mystery in the end.
In any case, there is still a little bit of Christmas to be gotten out of my system, and this is the post in which I intend to do it, with two last Yule-ish items: a literary passage and a song.
First, the literary passage and a bit of happy coincidence. I have been reading John Crowley's Little, Big, which I was inspired to do by a mention of it in the recent online seminar on Susanna Clarke's novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, hosted at Crooked Timber.
- If you have read JS&MN, which I recommend you do, and if you enjoyed it, as I did, then the Crooked Timber seminar is a must, particularly because Susanna Clarke is herself an active and engaging participant and provides all manner of comments concerning the world of the book, why things work as they do in it, and the process by which it came to be written. Top drawer. There is likely a good post to be written -- which I expect I will never get around to doing -- on the subject of how many Really Good Books and authors have first come to my attention via the often backhanded references to them in Crooked Timber posts over the past couple of years. That site is a gold mine of good reading if you keep your eyes peeled.
On Christmas evening, I had reached Chapter IV of Book 2 of Little, Big, in which we find the members of the Drinkwater family ice skating on the frozen lawn of the vast and inexplicable house at Edgewood, and which begins with this date-appropriate passage:
'Christmas,' said Doctor Drinkwater as his red-cheeked face sped smoothly toward Smoky’s, 'is a kind of day, like no other in the year, that doesn’t seem to succeed the days it follows, if you see what I mean.' . . .
'I mean,' Doctor Drinkwater said, reappearing beside him, 'that every Christmas seems to follow immediately after the last one; all the months that came between don’t figure in. Christmases succeed each other, not the falls they follow.'
And now, more music. On the day after Christmas, I discovered through a Christmas Day post by Alan Williamson at *Sixeyes yet another new cover version of Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here" to add to the two that I posted back on December 19. This one is a particular treat for me, because it is by one of my favorite singer-songwriter-musicians, Eric Matthews. It features his signature breathy multi-tracked vocals and a particularly nice trumpet part reminiscent of Chet Baker or the more melodic and muted side of Miles Davis. I realize that the desire for Christmas music, if you have it at all, can generally be expected to run out no later than Christmas Day, if it lasts even that long, but there is no reason not to think ahead and to begin preparing yourself now with fresh music for next Christmas. And here it is:
- Eric Matthews - Christmas Time is Here [MP3 link]
This comes by way of Matthews' current label, Empyrean Records, through which you may also obtain, if you really want a jump on your 2006 Christmas music needs, two additional Eric Matthews recordings for the season: versions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."
And now that that's done, it's time to begin looking to the New Year.