4 books to feast on this Christmas, recommended to you by us at 4th Estate
‘So here it is merry Christmas
Everybody’s having fun’
Slade, Merry Christmas Everybody
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Feasting only comes once a year for the students of Enfield Tennis Academy, which is known for its intense training regimes that dominate every part of the students’ lives. On this night, the Continental Interdependence Day gala, the boys can go wild. Normally dietary requirements are for one hour suspended, dessert is served, and everyone wears some sort of hat. But the highlight is Mario Incandenza’s technically and politically complex film of a puppet show which sends up the country’s ridiculous politicians and their hairbrained politics. This is one of the best set-pieces in Infinite Jest, full of comic detail, swerving in and out of the film, dinner, and events happening outside of the room and is a feast as much for the reader as the tennis players gorging on refined sugar.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
‘Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, won-der-ful happiness!’
A Christmas Carol should be as crucial to Christmas as crackers and turkey. In this festive treasure of a book, Dickens tells how Ebenezer Scrooge cast aside humbuggery in favour of goodwill to all men. The book – with the help of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future – crams a plethora of feasts into one day, from Christmas Present’s throne made up of turkeys, geese, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples and more, to Tiny Tim feebly crying “Hurrah!” at the sight of his humble goose. Hard-hitting truths about the misfortune of England’s poor are combined with moving optimism about the power of goodness, to create a book that has shaped our idea of Christmas since publication, and induces ‘won-der-ful happiness’ in all that read it.
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
‘Eating momos dipped in chutney, Gyan said: “You’re my momo.”
Sai said: “No you’re mine.”’
In New York, illegal immigrant Biju cooks every kind of cuisine under the sun, fleeing to a new restaurant whenever there’s a green card check. In West Bengal, Biju’s father prides himself on his traditional English puddings, mastered for the benefit of his Anglophile employer, a retired judge. But the judge’s granddaughter Sai and her tutor Gyan and fall in love over Nepalese momos, while around them, the Gorkhaland independence movement gathers dangerous pace.
A momo is a delicious steamed dumpling, stuffed with lamb, served with a lightly spiced dipping sauce. The Inheritance of Loss is a tale of changing India, of young love and past grief – and it will leave you with an insatiable hunger for momos.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I first read Great Expectations when I was at school and my lasting memory of it is the description of Miss Havisham’s ruined wedding feast. The scene of waste and decay, with spiders crawling over the mouldy remains of her never-to-be-eaten wedding cake serves as a mirror to Miss Havisham’s life and the reason why ‘she stole [Estella’s] heart away and put ice in its place’.
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