At the LRB, Thomas Jones has a funny short piece about eReading the new Michael Crichton novel (I can't help it, I've got a huge soft spot for Crichton, pernicious & muddled and humorless as his books may sometimes be--I am going to buy this one in an airport one of these days and read it); also a nice and seasonally appropriate meditation by Frank Kermode on the jovial contaminations of popular accounts of the Nativity:
For the laity, and especially its juvenile members, the build-up of extra marvels is acceptable because, whatever some say about the venality and bad taste that can make Christmas tedious, nothing these critics complain of can wholly prevent the celebration of an orgiastic midwinter festival far more ancient than these enfeebled allusions to it. The Saturnalia still underlie all the flummery, even if reduced to a long winter pause that we feel we cannot really manage without – a time during which we can try to stop worrying about the impudent demands of commerce, the unpaid bills and the hurt faces of disappointed children. Yet we still find ourselves wishing it didn’t go on quite so long, and regret that it can be claimed that Christmas lasted for twelve days (the Saturnalia lasted only seven). Long before it’s over we are longing to move on.