It is November, now, and time to start talking about the things we talk about in this country when we approach the last two months of the year. These two months are a time of tradition, joy, and light, so we make it a point of honor to grumble loudly about them. Featuring highly in any such grumble is fruitcake.
Now I like fruitcake, myself. I come of a fruitcake family, and you may take that any way you wish. In fact, I have a greater tolerance for fruitcake than for fruitcake jokes: there’s just one fruitcake, and it keeps getting circulated every year, a fruitcake is a useful gift because you can use it to bash anyone who tries to bring you more fruitcake, etc. But even I will admit that I have been served some pretty unappetizing fruitcake.
The fruitcake of stereotype is thick, heavy, indigestible. This stereotype is so widespread that there are people who have never eaten fruitcake and never intend to, simply because of the stories. That the steretype is sometimes true adds to the problem.
Fruitcake books affect people the same way, often for the same reason. They were forced to try these in childhood, when anything more complicated than fudge or the Smurfs was beyond their tastes. You know which books I mean: thick, heavy, and famous. I did an informal survey once on the books you’d wish on your worst enemy, if stuck on desert isle, and lots of these books came up: political or philosophical tomes, 600-page classics of western literature, and so forth.
The funny thing about the survey was that just about every book listed was somebody else’s favorite. (In fact, I was asked not to divulge the name of the person who picked Boswell’s Life of Johnson to a handy Johnson fan we both knew.) Tristram Shandy made the list right away, a book I always considered a perfect fruitcake, just chock full of nuts. Somebody out there DOES read the fruitcake books, just as some of us do eat the fruitcake.
So when considering your holiday gift list this year, you really ought to consider throwing in a fruitcake book or two, one of those books you actually liked but won’t admit it lest your friends think you’re intellectual, or something. Or get one for yourself, and leave it lying around. It’s the same theory that keeps fruitcake fans sending out that heavy holiday foodstuff. If it sits around long enough, there’s a chance someone out there will sample it and like it.
(Okay, or they can regift the book to their nearest Book Fair. MUST you keep discovering my fiendish plots?)