tag: holidaymyrlin hermesthe lunatic the lover and the poet

December 2009

the olive reader holiday grab bag: austin kleon

This December on the Olive Reader, we’ve given some of our authors free reign to talk about the holidays: holiday crafts, holiday mishaps, holiday happiness, holiday hangovers, holidays on heroin—we’ve got it all. I am delighted to share the first of these posts, from Austin Kleon, author of Newspaper Blackout, coming this April from Harper Perennial. If you like this poem, be sure to check out the book when it comes out.


the olive reader holiday grab bag: justin taylor

In our latest holiday grab bag post, Justin Taylor, author of Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, a collection of short stories that is just as good as its title, shares a tale of Will Oldham, John the Baptist, E.C. Ball, and being a Jew on Christmas. Enjoy!

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see Will Oldham and his two brothers (Ned and Paul) open for Hazel Dickens at Joe’s Pub. During the show, the Oldham brothers played two songs about John the Baptist, both covers, and both called “John the Baptist.” Not long after, I was lucky again, and got to interview Will. In the course of our conversation I asked him about the original versions of the two “John the Baptists.” One, he said, was by a guy named John Martyn and appeared on an album called “Stormbringer.” The other was by E.C. Ball. I picked up an album by each man, and got my original versions. The John Martyn album didn’t do much for me, but I fell right damn in love with E.C., and his wife Orna, one of the finer husband-wife gospel teams in the history of American folk music. I own as much E.C. Ball music as is publicly available for purchase, and at least one recording session that isn’t, but I’ve always wished for a recording of Will’s version of “John the Baptist.” You can imagine my extreme delight, then, when just two days ago I received an email from the great Nathan Salsburg—mastermind of the Twos & Fews imprint of Drag City, and, as it happens, the guy who organized those Oldham/Dickens shows. Nate’s note announced that “Face the Frowning World: An E.C. Ball Memorial Album” has just been released by the Tompkins Square label. It features, among other things, a Will Oldham version of E.C.‘s “John the Baptist.” I’m incredibly excited to see this album enter the world, and I look forward to spending a lot of time with it, as soon as I get my hands on it. It would be an absolute delight to wake up on Christmas Day and find this disc under my tree. Alas, since I don’t live with anyone likely to buy me a Christmas present, don’t have a tree, and am Jewish anyway, this delectable collection is probably going to end up being one of those gifts you give yourself. But hey, at least I won’t be disappointing me with socks.

Perhaps you, dear reader, have a folk music-loving, Christophile Jew in your own life. You can learn more about this record, including how to buy it for him, here.

the olive reader holiday grab bag: tony o’neill

Good morning! I hope everyone reading this had a lovely weekend. A weekend filled with some stereoptypical holiday cheer. Because today’s holiday grab bag post is anything but stereotypically cheerful. Today we have a video from Tony O’Neill, author of Down and Out on Murder Mile and the upcoming Sick City (a tale of two junkies, Hollywood, and a mythical Sharon Tate sex tape.) And if you watch this video, you’ll see why everyone at Harper Perennial loves him oh so much:

the olive reader holiday grab bag: richard milward

Today’s holiday wish list comes from Richard Milward, author of Ten Storey Love Song. It also comes with a contest! Write your own letter to Santa in the comments and you could win an autographed copy of Richard’s book! There will be five lucky winners, in fact.

Dear Santa,

This Christmas I want a sack of milk chocolate pennies, a hardback book about Henry Darger (the art world’s favourite recluse), a huge dead turkey surrounded in vegetables, a good bottle of whisky, and a suitable weather front giving way to snow so deep it’ll stop traffic. And I want to wake up on Christmas morn with no symptoms of cold, flu, hypothermia, or hangover.

the olive reader holiday grab bag: teddy wayne

Today’s holiday post comes from Teddy Wayne, author of the forthcoming Kapitoil and the recipient of a 2010 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship. The first time Teddy and I met, we nonchalantly discussed all manner of foully humorous things. Please let that and his post below alert you to the fact that his book is very funny, and that you should read it when it comes out in April. Or he’ll kill you.

I couldn’t be happier about contributing to the Olive Reader, Harper Perennial’s weblog, or, as the kids call it, “web log.” Nothing says the holidays like writing a sub-200-word blog post spreading the word about your forthcoming novel (Kapitoil, available April 13) that eight people will read because you posted it on Facebook and no one will “like,” “comment” upon, or “like” (in the non-Facebook sense)! It kind of feels like those disappointing Christmas mornings you had as a child, when you woke up expecting toys under the tree and all your family members gathered together, and instead found yourself arrested under suspicion of acting as ringleader for a multistate crystal-meth ring. Well, my Wi-Fi time is limited here at Franklin Correctional Facility, so I’ll sign off by entreating you once more to embody the holiday spirit and purchase a small yet heartfelt book by one of HarperCollins’s lesser-known authors: Going Rogue by Sarah Palin.

the olive reader holiday grab bag: kirk farber

Good morning! We had many adventures in Scranton yesterday, but it sure is nice to be back in the office today . . . and not just because we’re having a little holiday party and yankee swap later! I’m also excited to post this holiday grab bag entry from one of our favorite new authors, Kirk Farber. Kirk, a librarian, is the author of Postcards from a Dead Girl, a quirky, whimsical, and slightly macabre novel about Sid, who keeps receiving mysterious postcards from his ex. It’s out this spring, but in the meantime you can enjoy Kirk’s hilarious list of Christmas things that make him uneasy:

Hope your list of “Things to Be Grateful for This Holiday Season” is long and includes the following: family, friends, good health, and good books.

That being said, I’d like to share my alternative holiday list – “Things That Make Me Nervous Because I Don’t Quite Understand Them”:

  • Blown glass
  • Yule logs
  • The Large Hadron Super-Collider (not holiday-related, but generally makes me nervous)
  • Eggnog: origins, etymology, and ingredients of
  • My unquenchable thirst for eggnog
  • The dancing in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
  • Figgy pudding: what is it, and what makes it so good that carolers refuse to leave until you give them some?
  • Zhu Zhu Pets
  • Auld Lang Syne: who is she, and why does she have so many acquaintances?

Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night. (Especially you, Ms. Syne.)

the olive reader holiday grab bag: myrlin a. hermes

Happy Monday! Today’s holiday grab bag post (and it just may be the final one, unless more come in today) is from the lovely Myrlin A. Hermes, author of The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet, a topsy-turvy rethinking of Hamlet. Myrlin is our resident crafty author (you might remember her book gown), so we’re delighted to share her post below on how to make your very own recycled cashmere scarf!

I’ll admit it—I’m addicted to cashmere. Lest this seem like one of those diamond-shoes-too-tight problems suffered only by the very rich, let me assure you that writing literary fiction hasn’t suddenly become a lucrative career choice. Most of my cashmere and merino wool sweaters were rescued from thrift store bins for a few dollars apiece, which means that many of them have stains, holes, and dryer shrinkage—perfect for making into these easy fringey no-sew recycled scarves.

What’s that? Your only experience with crafts was making those knotted embroidery-floss friendship bracelets for your BFF in middle school? Perfect—you already know the basic technique! First, cut the sweater (or whatever material you want to use for your scarf) into strips about six inches long and 1 ½-2 inches wide, discarding collars, cuffs, and seams.


If you’re using cashmere or wool, you’ll want to felt these strips a bit to keep the edges from unraveling. You can do this by boiling them in a pot of water on the stove for about half an hour (yum, sweater soup!) then drying them in a hot tumble dryer. Now you’re ready to begin.


First, make three long strands by knotting several of the strips together end-to-end, leaving about two inches of loose ends at each knot. (I find it easier to work with if you make each strand no longer than a couple of feet at a time, adding more strips onto the ends as you go.) Tie these three strands (we’ll call them A, B, and C) together at one end with a double knot, which you’ll hold between your knees to keep the scarf steady while you work.

Take strand A and tie it around strand B with a simple overhand knot. Now your strands will be in order: BAC. Then tie strand A around strand C so they’re in order: BCA. Take strand B and knot it around strands C and A in turn. Keep working from left to right, tying more strips onto the end of your strands as necessary. Keep going until you have the length you want (or run out of strips—I find it takes about 1-2 sweaters to make an average scarf) then tie the strands together at the end with a double knot to secure them. If the scarf looks a little “thin” anywhere you can go ahead and add more fringe by tying short strips on where necessary. Et voilà! A low-cost luxe handmade gift in about an hour, without having to brave the mall.




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