December, the month famously associated with people not wanting stuff, has wrapped its icy claws around our throats and screamed, “You sure you don’t want a scarf now, good sir?! Doesn’t the chill in the air render your topcoat an insufficient barricade?!” We answer with a choked “nay,” for despite the frigid talons even now questing for exposed, wind-burnable flesh, this is the month of not wanting stuff, of casting off the shackles imposed by capitalism, that foul creature whose pungent exhalations and blank eyes, indifferent if not blind to suffering, haunt our dreams before jostling us awake so that we may desperately exchange legal tender for goods and services and vice versa. This is the month when upon waking from nightmares of far away children cobbling together smart phones and sneakers between furtive sips of the murky contents of their hamster-cage-water-bottle-thingies (careful not to be unproductive but for a moment lest the Dobermans’ snarls intensify, tears stifled because they tend to rile up the Rottweilers), we hop from our beds and roam the bitterly cold streets while not wanting stuff and distributing candy canes to the less fortunate before going inside somewhere and decking the halls with much needed fire-retardant materials. December is truly the jolliest of months.
This month’s recommendation pairs perfectly with this annual festival of generosity-and-contentment-with-current-allotment-of-goods-owned-or-leased. “Want Not” by Jonathan Miles is a beautifully written encapsulation of all that we cherish about this month: the foraging through dumpsters for food in a tiny hopeless effort to stem the awe-inspiring amount of waste we generate on a daily basis, the lengthy meetings wherein we try to agree on the best way to warn future civilizations on the dangers of the huge radioactive dump we’ve left behind for them, the struggle to hide a teen pregnancy from both our parents and ourselves, the witnessing of a fiery crash and taking it as a sign from God that we should abscond to the wilderness for a simple biblical life in which to raise our still-gestating daughter, the constant reminders to our Alzheimer’s stricken father that his wife is dead, and the coiled majesty of what we’ve just left in the toilet, flushed only after a picture is taken to document its grandeur and then be lorded over our IBS afflicted step-daughter. Short of an appearance by Santa in a department store specializing in mangers and colorful lights, I’m not sure how this novel could be more Christmassy.
Miles’ other novel, “Dear American Airlines,” is a book in the form of a letter demanding a refund for a plane ticket, though given that I’m not sure how one could possibly tie frustrations with travel to the holidays, I will not mention it further save to say it is enthusiastically recommended.
There, now why not take a break from hungrily eyeing that unmanned donations bucket outside your grocery store to read some holly jolly fiction from Jonathan Miles? Unless, of course, you’d rather give me stuff. That would be great.