Dear Mom,

I know it’s not even Halloween yet, but I thought I should be pro-active this year and actually put together a wish list for Christmas. I know it’s nearly impossible to buy books for me, and that you like to think that maybe I don’t want books this year because, you know, I haven’t read all the books I got last year. But you know what? I haven’t read a lot of books in the house. I worry that this will surprise you, but I think it probably won’t. Regardless, there is always room for more books. Seriously. If I get enough I can make a fort. I’ll be the only kid on my block to have a book fort. They will think I’m the coolest.

Speaking of cool reads, how about the new book from Oliver Sacks? I know he’s been dead for a few years, but the world is always discovering someone’s genius after they’re gone. Sacks was working on The River of Consciousness when he died, and it’s got a bunch of essays about memory and creativity and evolution and time: all those thing we don’t have enough of ourselves. And I think Ollie had some interesting ideas rattling around in his brain bucket still, at the end.

Hey, I heard this joke the other day: Did you know that 95% of the job description for the Swedish Forest Service is finding lost heavy metal band members after a photoshoot? I laughed really hard. So true! I know you’re not a big metal head—it’s exhausting to keep track of all those sub-genres, isn’t it? Well, there’s a new visual history that you can get me for Christmas! It’s called Hellraisers: A Complete Visual History of Heavy Metal Mayhem, and it provides everything you need to know to talk intelligently about the differences between Thrash, Death Metal, Black Metal, and Viking Metal. Solomon will dig it, and he’ll be able to keep up with all pals when they come over for All Hallows’ Eve. 

Zee, of course, isn’t so much into all the metal these days. She’s almost emo enough for Pink Floyd, though. Not that Floyd is emo—it certainly wasn’t back in my day—but kids do retro differently now. And if we had a copy of Pink Floyd: The Story Behind Every Track, she’d be the emo-est of all the neu emo kids at school. I’ll be the cool dad, because that’s important for the emo kid . . . no? I thought . . . But all the songs. All the origin stories, all the recording studio gossip, all the instrumentation notes. They’re not into that sort of minutia . . . ? Well, whatever, I am. So, okay, this one’s for me. We’ll get Zee a dismembered unicorn stuffie or something. Or a Hot Topic gift card.

Oh, and let’s not forget the last volume of the Hellboy Library Editions. This is the final volume, where Hellboy goes to Hell. Dealing with undead vampires, wrecking Pandemonium, fulfilling his destiny: stuff like that. I’ve been reading this comic for years, and I do so love Mignola’s work. It’ll be nice to finally get the whole saga on the shelf. 

Ooh, and speaking of good looking books on the shelf, there’s a bunch. First, there’s Cinemaps, an Atlas of 35 Great Movies. It’s by Andrew DeGraff and A. D. Jameson, the same pair who did Plotted, that atlas of literary classics? The orange book? We looked at it together this summer. Yeah, those guys. Well, they did another one! But this time, they’re charting film classics. Really great stuff. A bunch of SF films (of course), but also The Breakfast Club (which really needed a map, right?), Fargo (one of Dad’s favorites), and The Princess Bride. The Cliffs of Insanity! The Zoo of Death! The hunting ground of the R.O.U.S.! 

Oh, and Taschen has another batch of those really great small format hardcovers, including a Film Noir handbook. All the classics! Pictures! Movie posters! Essays! Drenched in darkness, as it were. So tasty. 

And, what’s better than cinematic maps and film noir? The pulps! OMG, there’s a new illustrated history of the pulps! Chronologies! Lurid covers! Author lists! This one has everything. 

Oh, I think I might need to lie down. All this excitement. Or take a restful trip or something. Ooh, I could go to one of those remote soviet sanitariums like in that new picture book, Holidays in Soviet Sanitariums. Did you know you could get a state-sponsored voucher to stay at psychiatric hospitals back in the day? Of course, some of the treatments are a little suspect, but the views! The views were fantastic. 

Though I should probably brush up on my colloquial Russian before I go. Good thing Erin Coyne and Igor
Fisun just came out with What They Didn’t Teach You in Russia Class: Slang Phrases for the Cafe, Club, Bar, Bedroom, Ball Game, and More. Yes, yes, I know. I don’t need all those swear words. But it’s for verisimilitude. For talking to the locals in a dialect they understand. You don’t want me sticking out like an uncultured American, do you? I mean, they have enough of that already. I could at least try to blend in. 

And while I’m there, I should read Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Misfit Manifesto. Based on her recent TED talk, The Misfit Manifesto is meant to remind all of us that we’re not all that strange. Nor are we all that alone. We should chart our own paths, you know. That’s how all great achievements and inventions came to be, right? Not because someone said, “Hey, I should do this thing the same way everyone else has done it for a thousand years.” No, us misfits said—well, we probably swore a lot and then scampered out the fire exit. But we did things different, and that has made all the difference. 

And finally, two other things that I’d love to have on my shelves. Christopher Kemp’s The Lost Species, a fantastic book about the treasures hiding in natural history museum drawers. We’ve only identified and taxonomied a fraction of the species in the world, and there’s a lot of wonderful things that may have already vanished from this planet and the only evidence of their passing is in a drawer somewhere. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to resurrect some of these lost species from these one-off samples? That’d be a great idea for a book!

And then, there’s Birdmania, Bernd Brunner’s account of the weird misfits who are nuts for birds. And not just celebrities like that Aristotle fellow or Chuck Darwin—who went a little cuckoo there at the end, what with all his theorizing—but folks who pretended to be birds, who stole thousands of eggs from museums to the guy who gave us “bird rooms” as a theme park attraction. Boy, we are an odd species, aren’t we?

Anyway, that’s my Christmas list this year. I hope it’s helpful when you go shopping. Hugs and kisses to Dad. Tell him to read that Leonardo bio he bought last week. I know he’ll like it. Oh, and you can share this list with the rest of the family. I’m sure they’ll be checking in to make sure they don’t all buy the new Jack Reacher novel or something (which doesn't come out until November 7th, by the way). And if they do—and I'm sure someone will—you can totally borrow it when I'm done.


Meanwhile, At Bob's Cabin »»

COLBY: Okay, so I’ve asked everyone to gather today so that we can sort out some boundary issues. 


COLBY: Yes, there’s beer. Bob will bring it out in a minute. 

HODGE: I don’t see why you have to make such a fuss about this. 

COLBY: Boundaries. 

PODGE: What boundaries? 

COLBY: Exactly. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom?

COLBY: No, it’s a good beer. It’s—trust me. You’ll like it. It’s not Pumpkin Fudge or something toxic like that. 

HODGE: Pumpkin what?

PODGE: It’s toxic.

HODGE: What’s toxic?

PODGE: The fudge pumpkin.

HODGE: That doesn’t even make any sense. 

PODGE: Toxicity rarely does, you know. 

COLBY: Look, you two. Could you just . . . just chill. Okay?  

PODGE: I get a little nervous. 

COLBY: Just . . . c-h-i-l-l.

HODGE: Chili?

PODGE: No, chill. 

HODGE: It sounded like chili. 

PODGE: It just looks the same on the page if you chose a bad font. 

HODGE: It doesn’t sound the same, though. 

PODGE: No, it doesn’t. 

HODGE: But he makes it sound the same. It's the trouble with marmot physiology. 

COLBY: I didn’t make it—

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glomglomglom. 

COLBY: I know. These two are going to—Oh, Bob! Just in time. 

BOB: What did I miss?


BOB: Okay, okay. Here you go. Don’t crowd me. And watch it with those antlers. Bourbon milk stout for you. A little bourbon without the milk or the stout for me. A little rye for you, marmot. 

COLBY: Oh, thank goodness. 

BOB: And some cider for you two.

HODGE: Er, what?

PODGE: Cider! How exciting. 

BOB: Don’t drink it all at—well, never mind. There’s no modulating these two, is there? 

COLBY: I’m afraid not. Oh, look, my thimble is empty already. 

BOB: Pace yourself, marmot. The pizza isn’t even here yet. 

PODGE: Pizza!

HODGE: I say. What’s the catch? 

BOB: Excuse me?

HODGE: There must be some catch. Cider and pizza. Does it have anchovies on it?

BOB: I, uh, I believe it does. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glurk! 

BOB: It’s not for you anyway. 

PODGE: Oh, so it’s not a gift freely given. You want something from us, don’t you?

HODGE: You silly bearded barbarian. We are not so easily purchased. We have morals. We have standards. 

COLBY: If you stay out of his library, you can have this copy of the new Illustrated History of the Pulps

HODGE: We have—oh, my, what is this?

PODGE: Pulp!

HODGE: Is it—gasp!—full color throughout?

COLBY: It is. Don’t. Keep your paws off. Not until you promise to respect Bob’s library. 

PODGE: Oh, Hodge! Oh, Hodge, oh Hodge, oh-hodge-oh-hodge-oh-hodgeeee, can we? 

HODGE: It’s not about the particulars. It’s about principles. It’s about—

BOB: I could just put out poison traps and use my spear fishing gun. 

HODGE:  —coming to a consensus among intelligent parties as to be best way to live in close proximity. An agreement to agree to be agreeable.  

COLBY: I think that’s wise. 

PODGE: Can I hold it now? Can I?

COLBY: Better now than after the pizza gets here. You aren’t going want to get fish grease all over those pictures. 

PODGE: Oh, Hodge. It’s so dreamy!

HODGE: That’s, uh, *ahem* mighty kind of you, neighbor. 

BOB: Don’t mention it. 

HODGE: Perhaps some day we can return the favor. 

BOB: That would be . . . that would be interesting. 

PODGE: Lookit! Space ships! With fins that move! Pu-pu-puwheee-eeee-eeee!


BOB: Yeah, I know. I didn’t realize otters made that sort of noise. 


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