Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perfect Holiday Bookings

It's true. I overuse superlatives and exclamation points! I've analyzed this character flaw and have come to the conclusion it's probably the consequence of working too many years as a fashion journalist.

I mention this elucidation before I launch into what could not be a more sincere and heartfelt elogé for the extraordinarily creative writing of Els on her blog Mon Avis Mes Amis.

Els is to put it simply: Brilliant. I am in no way exaggerating. She is a weaver of tales, a story teller of the first order. As you read her words listen to her phrasing, her wicked wit, her irreverently stylish prose, her insouciant approach to the quotidian -- she writes with such high-spirited irony and joy one wants more and more and more. 

That's why I asked her for this Christmas gift sampler below. In a few moments you too will understand why, occasionally, hyperbole is the only choice one has. (Tishxo)


                                                           By Els

Christmas, if one could people it with fictional characters, would be perfect. As it is, we have to rub along with imperfect and maddening types who jar with our dreams and get right on our nerves. I suggest you buy them books - transporting someone to a pretend land is almost as good as zapping them off the face of the earth. Impossible-to-buy-for-buggers include, but are by no means restricted to:

1. The Martyred Mother

All steam-reddened cheeks and gale-force sighs, she truly believes Christmas would go to the dogs without her unique input. Get her something to remind her that life needs a bit of a glamorous veil at times, and that she'd be more cossetted if she played the coquette a bit more. Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford will remind her that stumping crossly about in worsted tights yields much less than flirting, giggling and beautiful stockings.

2. The Sulky Teen

Goth khol, determinedly dreary clothes and a perma-scowl. Give her Baudelaire's (complete works, including English translation) poems to show her what real fin-de-siecle malaise looks like and give her something to be interesting about at the miserable parties she'll be slouching around at the minute she's limply opened her presents. This one's a lost cause. For now.

3. The Bottom-Obsessed Little Boy

Roddy Doyle's The Giggler Treatment is perfect for adults still at the read-me-a-story phase. Lots of different dialects to amuse the reader, if not the listening child, especially after a couple of glasses of Christmas cheer, and a twist-and-turn story to exhaust them before blessed early bedtime. Oh, and it's all about poo. This used to have the bots and me helpless with laughter.

4. The Impossible To Please In-law

Something huge and heavy; content irrelevant, just club him/her into a coma with it while no-one's looking.

5. Your Lover

Surrealist poetry and fascinating photographs from Lee Miller. Lie decadently abed awaiting your glass of champagne and plate of blinis leafing langorously through this and listening to Ella Fitzgerald. Silk lingerie mandatory; read aloud to each other between erm, the sheets.

6. The Left-the-Nest-Fledgeling

Easy - Nigella's, How to Eat. No doubt they will be existing on expensive lunchtime sandwiches and the odd lasagne for attempted grown-up dinner parties. This book, even apart from the luscious prose, will instruct the sophisticate wannabe in basic cookery techniques, store-cupboard must-haves and incredibly easy to do but completely amazing dishes for pretty much all occasions. If you're feeling flush and don't own it, buy one for yourself.

7. Your Old College Chum

Knackered by child-rearing, mortgages, juggling life and getting on a bit, Rosamond Lehmann's Dusty Answer will take them back to the halcyon days of intense friendships, nascent fascination with Other People and a lovely glimpse into the early days of women's education at Cambridge. Seriously sumptuous prose, this is the literary equivalent of eating most of a Stilton alone; in my book, a splendid indulgent end to a perfect day.

8. Travel Buff d'Un Certain Age

Alec Waugh's (brother of the infamous Evelyn) Island in the Sun. Fabulous, if tragic, story of the West Indian planter classes in the 1950s. Great characters, great social insight and a really gripping tale. Send them back to a time when one wore gloves to fly and spent evenings avoiding the ghastly bores at Consulate drinks parties. Guaranteed to give you two hour's peace from lonely old Uncle Edgar.

9. Slightly Awkward Little Girl

The utter classic The Secret Garden; lots of spine-tingling Victorian melodrama, which is surprisingly easy for even the most dedicated X-Box child to read. Sympathetic tragic heroine, ghostly happenings, the curative forces of narure and sinister gardeners. Even better, make an hour for her to read it to you.

10. Military Buff 

Book token, tucked suggestively down your stocking top. You don't want to be bothering with all those dull little wars when there's fun to be had.

(Painting: "Femme en bas noir" by Egon Schiele)


Marsi said...

Wonderful recommendations (even for one's own self), but it's the droll commentary that really makes this post. <3

Dedene said...

Great gift ideas and delightful descriptions. Thanks!

Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart said...

MON AVIS, MES AMIS is beyond admiration! (exclamation point!!!) I love, love, love her blog. I wait ot read it every single time she posts. The book list is going straight to my husband THE reader and I will needless to say, dip into it myself. What a great idea and, as usual, fun and creative and very british remarks. MERCI, and MERCI, Tish for such a marvelous post!!!!!

Lily Lemontree said...

What excellent suggestions! I also checked out Els at her blog, simply fabulous! Tish-you never steer us wrong!

James said...

E how do you do it? I think even reading your grocery list would be a hoot. Thank you for the post and thank you Tish for getting her to do it.
Tish it's not a character flaw,but an enthusiasm for life!

Cathi said...

Wonderful post!!! :)

knitpurl said...

Loved these. El's comments are all that has been written above. What a gift! She needs to publish something. Glad you could share these, Tish, as well as Jeanne-Aelia's thoughts a few days ago.
xo Carole

Deja Pseu said...

These suggestions all look fabulous and these are the most fun and interesting book reviews I've read in a long time!

BigLittleWolf said...

I guffawed at number 4. (And it's a tad... genant to guffaw at my age and diminutive stature.)

As for the rest - delightful!

(And anyone who appreciates Egon Schiele is A-OK in my book, and then some.)

Fabulous suggestions!

Lily Lemontree said...

Me again, almost forgot to tell you that there is a little something for you over at my blog. Have a great day!

Anoninoz said...

Absolutely agree with you too - Els writes in a most awe inspiring way - just brilliant. And I love the book reviews too - given me several ideas (know which one Mr SE would prefer too !)

Bonjour Madame said...

This was entertaining! Must get Nigella's book pronto.

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

Isn't she just a gem? It's a special treat every time I read a new post from ELS. Must get a heavy atlas to wallop the relatives.

Anonymous English Female said...

ELS - your regular followers know you have great style - beautifully exemplified in this post. Anyone reading this who doesn't already read MonAvisMesAmis will see what they're missing. Hope that stack of books on a sandy beach in Barbados has a large congratulatory cocktail balanced on the top...

ELS said...

You are all too kind for words; thanks for having me, Tish. Dodgy internet and melting ice, must dash but am so touched by your generous and lovely comments.

Hot, trying hard to imagine the UK under snow, Elsx

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