Ahoy! This edition of my newsletter appears to be… a gift guide??
I’ll tell you first about a new print zine and an upcoming live stream, then get into the gifts, which, if you can imagine the spookiest possible version of Santa Claus, with shades of Krampus and all three Christmas ghosts from Dickens, oh and also, he’s a wizard, well: this is what’s in his bag.
This newsletter’s art is a handful of pages from a sketchbook that, although it’s dated 1797, has all the wit and bounce of the best Looney Tunes. There’s a strong whiff of atemporality here, and if you flip through these scans to find the elephants, you won’t be sorry you did.
New offerings! First:
A new print zine is available to order now! Just 89¢ with U.S. postage.
This is the last one of the year: a short story about families, high-tech biology, and the secret origin of the most calamitous event of the late 21st century. It has some of the same near-future gleam as my previous story, “The Sleep Consultant,” and, very subtly, inhabits the same timeline.
Once again, I’m doing my annual reading of the sublime Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This year, it will happen on New Year’s Day—a date that is of course very important to the story —
The reading will stream live on this page, as ever.
I didn’t start out intending to write one, but, I think… this turned into… a gift guide?? Sort of a strange one. I’ll go in sections.
↑ If you know someone who appreciates typography, you need to get them a subscription to David Jonathan Ross’s Font of the Month Club. It’s fun to receive (and use!) the fonts, even more fun to read David’s notes on their creation, and MOST FUN OF ALL simply to know you’re a member of something called the Font of the Month Club.
(Trust me: if you arrange this subscription for the right person, you will be treated to the goofy, sputtering reaction reserved only for gifts both perfect and perfectly unanticipated.)
↑ With my partner Kathryn, I offer a subscription of my own: Fat Gold is four tins of olive oil, each different, delivered over the course of a year. Like fonts, they make a great gift. The zine included with each shipment —
↑ Our friends at INNA Jam make the best jam in the country, and it is available in extremely cute gift packs, so, come on! My personal faves are Santa Rosa plum and Blenheim apricot, along with salt-preserved Meyer lemon and Bearss lime.
↑ The Oakland spice company Diaspora is engineering a new kind of supply chain —
↑ Enzo’s Table is a California smorgasbord. Our household is powered by their almond butter, the best I’ve ever had. Likewise, I believe their Fresno chili olive oil—which is made by tossing bins of whole chilis right into the mill with the olives —
↑ I love this little company —
The deadline to order a hat and have it arrive before the holidays
is Monday, December 2 has passed, but/and you can always file this one away for some other occasion, or, for yourself! The hats are truly spectacular, and it’s a real pleasure to follow this determined little business on Instagram.
↑ My strong recommendation for Bay Area readers is to visit Umami Mart in Oakland and select something cute and/or tasty. It is one of the region’s most excellent emporiums, with just the right balance between curation and plenty.
↑ Likewise, a visit to Redfield, the serene cider bar and bottle shop on the Oakland/Berkeley border, will yield some tasty gifts indeed.
↑ Is it weird to give someone natural deodorant? I don’t know! But I do know that Serota’s Underarm Balm is the absolute best. For years now, I’ve applied nothing else to my armpits; just the tiniest dab of this herbal-y balm —
↑ Is it weird to give someone a planner? I don’t know! But when the new 2020 Hobonichi planners came out, I bought one to use next year. They are pleasantly and reassuringly Japanese, as much about noticing small moments as getting things done. Will my Hobonichi change my life? Will I lose it by the third week of January? We’ll soon find out…
↑ A *New* Program for Graphic Design, which I praised earlier this year, would make a perfect gift for any designer, maybe an aspiring designer most of all; I think this would be a mind-blowing thing to read at age sixteen or twenty. This is the kind of book that could like… set you on a path. Order it directly from the publisher.
↑ There are great novels, and then there are great novels that make great gifts, and to achieve the latter, a novel needs presence. That’s a little bit rare these days; or, maybe it’s just that presence is fine-tuned, increasingly, for two dimensions —
↑ One of my all-time favorite comics, The Walking Man by Jiro Taniguchi, has a freshly expanded edition due out this week. This is a really special book: calm and cosmic, drawn with breathtaking precision and… what else could you call it but love? If you know a fan of graphic novels and/or walking, this one will resonate on a deep, deep frequency. Get the new edition at a comic book store or order it from Green Apple Books.
↑ I’ve often recommended Gabriel Zaid’s slim, punchy volume titled So Many Books, and it remains a perfect gift for any book lover, particularly in combination with a stack of other books. “And now,” this one will suggest, “after all that… maybe, just maybe… you ought to read ME.” It is lean, whippy, and wise —
(Another Paul Dry fave: The Usefulness of the Useless.)
↑ I’ve been recommending this novel every winter for years, so why would I stop now? Hild by Nicola Griffith: a tale from 7th-century England, deeply researched, engrossingly told. It offers the deliciousness of medieval court intrigue with the additional benefit of actually having to something to say, historically and politically. It’s a big, thick book: sponge for cold, dark hours. They’ve got plenty of copies ready for you at Powell’s.
↑ You could order a real live sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour… and pair it with Sourdough by Robin Sloan! Now that’s a high-concept gift. It would be great for anyone you know who likes baking, or robots, or baking with robots.
I have this recurring idea that I could start a tiny, idiosyncratic bookstore —
Bookstores are —
Here’s a book recommendation that’s more “what to read during the holidays” than “what to give as a gift”:
This week, I finished the third in a trilogy by Adam Brookes that begins with Night Heron, continues into Spy Games, and concludes with The Spy’s Daughter, and I can report to you that they are the best spy novels I’ve read in years. Legitimately gripping —
I will warn you, however, that if the first novel in the trilogy is steely, and the second is gritty, then the third is heartbreaking —
Look at those little guys. Kuwagata Keisai would be perfectly at home at Pixar!
Here’s one more reminder to jot a note on your calendar, analog or digital, for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight on New Year’s Day. I’ve done this reading for two years running, and I think I’ve finally got the voices down.
From rainy California,
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