So the Halloween candy has been reduced to seventy percent off, and certain radio stations are already playing Rudolph and Frosty, and it is That Time Of Year Again. This applies whether you make your own cranberry sauce or slide it out of a can, whether you thrill to the first snowflake or shudder and start pulling out those travel brochures for Bali, Cancun, and Sandcrab, Florida. It is that time of year when I must decide which Christmas books to put out for sale on the Book Fair cartshelves at the Rosenberg Bookshop, and which to sort into the Book Fair for July.
This is a serious proposition. For one thing, I get a lot less grousing about Christmas books in July than I do in November. But sorting Christmas books for the Book Fair is a pain in the elbow: does a book filled with poetry, songs, recipes, craft ideas, and Gospel readings go in Poetry, Cooking, or How To (Hands)? I had a volunteer once who simply dumped them all in Religion, convinced that that was where people would look for Plumbous, The Pencil Who Saved Christmas.
Selling such things at the Bookshop solves some of these problems. (Although, because you let your terrier puppy chew on Plumbous, we can’t put that out on display.) This is pretty much the only time of year we put Ideals out where people can find it (and then only the Christmas issues.) Come July, you will have to find these collections of verse, fiction, and memoir in Poetry. (Well, there’s more poetry in them than anything else. AND it gets them away from Religion, where that same volunteer always used to put Christmas Ideals, Autumn ideals, Spring Ideals…. “It’s all so touchy-feely, it OUGHT to go in Religion,” she said.)
Randolph Haugan’s line, however, tends to go into Collectibles, where people pick it up, look it over, and sigh, “I remember these. But what’s it doing in Collectibles?”
Randolph Haugan was for over forty years the general manager at Augsburg Publishing House, a major Lutheran publisher. This will be a shock to those people who didn’t know there WAS such a thing, and are unfamiliar with the subversive Lutheran strain in American culture. (Prairie Home Companion tried to give you the hint.) Various Lutheran concerns over the years gave us the animated series Davey and Goliath, the last movie starring Basil Rathbone (one of the weirdest all-time productions of A Christmas Carol. Find the colorized version, which added a musical background of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” played over and over and over and over.) And, at Augsburg, Randolph Haugan gave us the annual volume “Christmas”.
There is a British equivalent, and Haugan’s version was the successor to the Norwegian series of the same general nature. Beginning in 1931 and continuing at least to the end of the century, it was a tall, thin book presenting a Christmas variety show of material: color pictures of medieval paintings, fiction, memoir, poetry, and light social commentary. (I have the 1964 edition before me, and am struck by a picture story which begins “It is Christmastime again, and in executive-type homes, ranch ramblers, bungalows, trailer parks, and apartments, people are preparing for those friendly gatherings, so much a part of the holidays.”) They’re not all that much different from Ideals, though there seems to be less poetry (a selling point for some) and a few of the big color pictures are printed on heavier paper, should you wish to take them out for framing. Much, not all, of the art and other graphics definitely reflect whatever was trendy in Christian publishing at the time. They have a definite period charm about them. (“Period charm” is a decade-specific slant which makes people who remember it say, “Threw that stuff away years ago” and younger people say, “Wow, this is so retro! How much?”)
And THAT is why you will find them in Collectibles: not so much because people collect them (people collect books on fly fishing, too, and you’ll find most of those in Sports) but because they are in such beautiful condition it can be seen that hardly anyone does anything with them EXCEPT collect them.