The holidays are over at last and I think it will be recorded as the Gastro Christmas, not to be confused with anything gastronomical. My fond memories of Christmas past tend to horrify my daughter, tales of my father forgetting it was Christmas and flying to Bermuda “on business”, my brother buying comic books with the tree money, and five sugar-demented brothers fighting over who got to impale the angel to the top of the tree, only to attach instead a crayon drawing of an unspeakably pornographic winged creature, the nature of which was not discovered by my parents until the tree was taken down a week later. Some people in the store were so crazy-eyed with stress that they reacted badly to my little jokes, one fellow screaming at me when I suggested that the cookbook he was buying would make him fat. Then there was the Moldavian refuge who passed around his homemade prune-avocado moonshine and everyone got a rash
We all have our idiosyncrasies, and OK maybe mine are weirder than most, but I can never look at an author’s picture because if I do, I can’t read the book. I can’t help it. Last week I had to stop reading a book I was enjoying when I happened to see the author’s picture and was reminded of a Marketing VP I once hated and tried to kill at the Christmas party. And who can bear to read Atwood once you’ve heard her chuttering on the radio or enjoy Robertson Davies after seeing that Rasputin picture of him. I liked Mordecai Richler’s work until I met him and discovered he didn’t get the memo about blackheads and nose hairs. Harlan Coben looks like a smug programmer and Yann Martel like my suicidal Auntie Ophelia. There are exceptions. J.R.R. Tolkien looks like Gandalf so he’s OK and Mark Twain passes muster because he looks like he’s had a few and isn’t quite sure where he is. Anyway, this year I’ve vowed to read more serious fiction so I don’t have to lie so much when someone asks me about a book.