Sunday, 4 December 2011

Coco and Capote and Christmas...


I've been baking banana bread and ginger cake today, and thinking about Christmas shopping, but not quite getting around to doing it; though I am hoping to do most of it at the wonderful Daunt Books.
Aside from stocking up on Paul Gallico and Truman Capote, I'm also going to be buying several signed copies of Anne Sebba's absorbing biography of Wallis Simpson, as we're doing a talk together at Keats House next Wednesday (December 7th at 7pm). Keats House is a glorious place -- worth a visit, even without sharing a glass of wine with Anne and I -- so I do hope some of you can come.

Herewith today's Closet Thinker column:

Tis the season to be jolly, but not at the expense of one’s sanity, which means that I am reining in the shopping this Christmas. Well, I say that now – as I do on the first weekend of every December – and then still find myself panic-stricken on Oxford Street a fortnight later, wild-eyed with reckless anxiety. This is absurd, given my hard-won knowledge, through bitter experience of the ghosts of Christmas past, that I hate the crush of last minute shopping, the wanton futility of it all.

But neither do I feel inclined to give up on Christmas – I love the rustle of wrapping paper, the scent of pine needles, the flickering light of candles in the darkest nights of the year. And I like giving presents, too; if only to the people I love – so if any of my nearest and dearest is reading this, please stop. (Actually, the men can read on – today, at least – because I’m better at gifts for girls.) This year, I’ve decided to plan well ahead with books and little bits of luxuries, each reflecting the other; not original, I confess, as a writer, but reading is what connects us (you and me, at this very moment). First, a signed copy of my biography of Coco Chanel or Paul Morand’s recollections of the couturiere, and one of her trademark colours in nail polish or lipstick; either the limited edition Black Pearl or Peridot varnishes – each iridescent as a jewel – or Rouge Coco lip colour in the intense red christened Gabrielle (after the founder’s first name, and the shade that she chose for herself, ‘because it’s the colour of blood and we’ve so much inside us it’s only right to show a little outside’).

Alternatively, ‘Mrs Harris Goes To Paris’, Paul Gallico’s novel about a London charlady who flies to France in search of a Dior dress; and as delightful now as it was upon publication in 1958. Best given with Dior on the side; possibly ‘Merveille’ nail polish, a lustrous special edition that might just be the same colour as Mrs Harris’s heart’s desire.

Finally, Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s' (published in the same, vintage year as Gallico’s classic), preferably accompanied by a tiny Tiffany original. Capote’s narrator chooses a St Christopher’s medal for Holly Golightly’s Christmas present, to keep her safe on her wayward journey, an amulet against ‘the mean reds’, for days that are more anxious than a bout of the blues. Come to think of it, we could all do with one of those lucky charms now…

19 comments:

enid said...

What a great idea to team a book with a matching gift. I remember a friend gave me an Indian novel with some spice and an Indian scarf. I love the idea. I think books are the greatest gifts and all my Xmas gifts will be books. Last year I gave your Coco to my 2 friends and it was the best gift I could have given them, I like matching books with people.

Justine Picardie said...

Which was the Indian novel? I agree; matching books with people is such fun...

jaywalker said...

I'd love to be at Daunts and listen to that talk. I would also like to ask Anna Ebba why she gave so much credence and space to what she perceives as Wallis's gender identity condition. Apart from that it was a very readable and informative book and I've just posted it off to England to a good friend for "a second opinion".

Enid - I'm about to start "A Compass Error" as it just arrived courtesy of amazon.uk

And I've done my Christmas wish book list and am about to leave it floating on my OH's desk! We have to do that as otherwise we buy each other the same books and have to take half of them back!

Gondal-girl said...

love the idea of matching something wonderfully lux with the theme of the book - that is a great idea - you are a real pearl fisher Justine - pulling surprise wonders from unexpected places- have read Breakfast at Tiffany's and I missed the St Christopher gift ( all I seem to recall jewellery wise is Holly's fake pearls). Time for more Gallico for Christmas too I think

enid said...

It was English August by Chatterjee. I too found that Anne Sebba pounded on with her own take on Wallis' sexuality. She became a little too preachy for me. What is on everyone's Xmas book list ?

Justine Picardie said...

I am very flattered to be called a pearl fisher -- that seems to me to be something to strive towards in every day life.
Meanwhile, I need ideas for what books to buy my sons; they're 17 and 22, both keen on music, Classics (but have already read the obvious originals, along with spin offs like Robert Graves, Tom Holland, Robert Harris, and Ted Hughes translations).
Any thoughts?

Gondal-girl said...

so I take it they don't read your blog Justine? :)

Books for older boys? Alas I am just starting on the beginner rungs for books for boys - Jack London? Will have a think - makes me realise how fem centric my shelves are ( and my pleasure about the pearls)

enid said...

Music books I loved maybe not teenagers though High Fidelity Hornby, Bob Dylan autobiography, Equal Music Seth and Patti Smith's autobiography - Just Kids. Also Ransom by David Malouf revisiting The Illiad beautifully told as is Achilles Song by ?

Justine Picardie said...

They don't read my blog -- which is as it should be! Thanks for suggestions; more, please! I think they've read Nick Hornby et al, but will try David Malouf.

Lilacs In May said...

2 books on my Christmas list are; Still MIssing by Beth Gutcheon and The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty. I love the idea of giving a book with a relevent accessory.

Justine Picardie said...

Could you give toffee apples with the Eudora Welty?

Lilacs In May said...

Great idea, more affordable than an ipad ;) Some lovely inspiration for presents here. Good luck on Weds.

Gondal-girl said...

What about Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang - beautiful, poignant and wonderful. And to tie in with your gift from the book - a green scarf/tie ( very potent green sash in book). For the younger one

or

Carey's Parrot and Olivier - French Aristocrat and his British servant - revolution, the Birth of New York, delicious writing, a blind man who illustrates birds - very Aubudon - and the tie in gift something to do with a pen? For the older one

(two of my favourites - and my father also adored the first)

Karen, Surrey said...

I think to give books is a wonderful treat. Books are expensive and we often don't buy beautiful, interesting books for ourselves as there are too many other demands on our money. I shall bear your good advice in mind as I continue with my Christmas shopping.

Karen, Surrey said...

Just read through everybody's comments and thought I might share this with you, to my shame the only book so far that I am giving is the Top Gear annual to my 17yr old son. He has much less highbrow tastes than your boys Justine!

Justine Picardie said...

They might not get Top Gear, but they enjoy a good rugby book!

Dita said...

Dear Justine,
I am working for a film festival and we have an idea of possible collaboration in mind. Could you by any chance send me your e-mail address? Mine is dita.krauze at gmail.com. Thank you very much in advance!

AG said...

Dear Justine,

We cannot wait until christmas to start reading the book about COCO which you signed for Antonia here in Berlin. Thank you!
We were the two designers from ANTONIA GOY and would like to stay in touch with you! You probably remember us...
We wish you a merry christmas and a splendid 2012!

Rose said...

loved this idea for presents!