Jean ooh'ed over my gift to her: a long winter coat (as opposed to a long winter's nap); and I aah'ed over the gift she handed to me (the annual slippers and pajama set).
Then there was one more present for me to unwrap. An M-Edge cover for my Kindle. Just as I'd suspected. Hugs and kisses all around.
Then there was yet another present for me to unwrap. I tore the paper. A brown box. The fragment of a word: "Amaz--." The familiar logo (a curved arrow which, to me, looks like someone licking his lips). I widened my eyes and looked up at Jean. "This isn't what I think it is, is it?"
"It all depends on what you think it is."
A few more tremble-hand rips of the gift wrap and it was indeed what I thought it was.
I was like the giddy version of Scrooge telling the boy in the street to go buy the turkey that was "twice the size of Tiny Tim."
My wife sure knew the way to my book-ified heart: not only did she put a new 3G Kindle in my hands, she also slipped in a $25 Kindle gift card. I have been making good use of that money, nibbling at it slowly and carefully with a few purchases of discounted books: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Imperfectionists, and Joseph Frank's 1,000-page biography of Dostoevsky (now I need to get off my lazy butt and finally read The Brothers Karamazov).
One beauty of the Kindle is that I was able to transfer all of the content from my first device to the new one. Remember that massive classic-book downloading binge I went on just a couple of days before I got the new Kindle? All those Arthur Conan Doyles, Edgar Rice Burroughses, and Zane Greys neatly packed up and moved to their new residence with very little fuss.
Since then, I've gone on another vintage-book spree, like a cop returning to a donut shop (my wife would probably say "like a dog returning to its vomit"). In the process, I discovered a wonderful blog which highlights classic e-book downloads: Kindle Classics. From there, it was only a hop, skip, and click over to the Amazon site where I started "buying" more free books:
Collins, Wilkie: After DarkCollins, Wilkie: ArmadaleCollins, Wilkie: Man and WifeCollins, Wilkie: My Lady’s MoneyDoyle, Arthur Conan: The Captain of the PolestarDoyle, Arthur Conan: The Stark Munro LettersGreen, Anna Katharine: Agatha WebbGreen, Anna Katharine: The House of the Whispering PinesGreen, Anna Katharine: The Mill MysteryHill, Grace Livingston: The Girl From MontanaOppenheim, E. Phillips: The Cinema MurderRinehart, Mary Roberts: KTarkington, Booth: PenrodTarkington, Booth: Penrod and SamWharton, Edith: The Early Short Fiction of Edith WhartonWharton, Edith: The Valley of Decision
Since unwrapping the Kindle on Christmas Eve Eve, I've noticed that I'm spending much more time with it than Kindle #1. I've burned quickly through two turn-of-the-century holiday stories: the abysmal The First Christmas Tree by Henry Van Dyke and the much-better-though-still-shy-of-great Christmas* by Zona Gale. I'm now working my way into a contemporary horror novel by Brian Keene called Darkness on the Edge of Town, which seems to be a kissing cousin of Stephen King's Under the Dome and The Mist. Just given my own behavior, an argument could be made that e-readers increase reading time and bring people to more books, rather than widen the gulf between readers and literature. I know my book time has increased fivefold in the past week.
This does not bode well for my 2011 Reading Plan.
So that was my very merry Christmas. What about you? Were all your bibliophilic dreams fulfilled?
Postscript: For those who might be wondering what happened to Kindle #1....It turned into what was probably my favorite moment of this holiday season. I carefully nested the second-generation Kindle in its original box, wrapped it up, and presented it to my Mom on Christmas morning. If you have never seen your grown mother bouncing and squealing like a six-year-old girl who's had too much cake at a birthday party, half-crying and half-singing a series of "Ooo-ooo-ooo"s, then, my friend, you have not experienced complete filial ecstasy. I made my Mom's Christmas a joyful one and for that I am very happy indeed. Best of all, she's able to read all the books I bought and downloaded before Kindle #2 came along. She's already halfway through Freedom and, she claims, is loving it.
*Christmas (1912) is, on the surface, a cynical fable about a town that decides to forgo Christmas because the local factory has shut down and everyone is out of work. It's as sweet and sappy as maple syrup, but I was glued to my Kindle screen nonetheless. A typical passage:
"It seems perfectly awful to me not to have a Christmas," Jenny could say only, "I feel like the Winter didn't have no backbone to it."
"It's a dead time, Winter," Mary assented. "What's the use of tricking it up with gewgaws and pretending it's a live time? Besides, if you ain't got the money, you ain't got the money. And nobody has, this year."