Jack Underwood’s Not Even This: some Preparatory notes about Gift-Giving

Traditionally, at birthdays and Christmas, grown-up women give each other scarves. Have you noticed this? It makes sense: they can look beautiful, feel luxurious, are practical, and you don’t have to enter the minefield of trying to estimate size. However, since his wife’s reinvention as a writer, my father-in-law has specialised in gifts of the most recent, talked about books. 

Apart from the other lazy assumptions about me, mentioned in my previous post, it is thoughtless to risk giving these presents to anyone in the household of a compulsive and obsessive book-acquirer. In fact, of the last 9 book-gifts given to us by my father-in-law, Jack Underwood’s Not Even ThisPoetry, Parenthood & Living Uncertainly was the first one that I didn’t have already, and that was only because I’d considered and rejected it. (They clearly read the same reviews that I do.) 

I found this so exasperating and patronising that I wanted to point out the fact to them, but Jo put her foot down and refused to let me. I know she’s right. It would be incredibly rude, and my annoyance comes from an infantile, grasping love of being given presents I’d want. This is an attitude that sometimes persists, beyond childhood, among those of us who continue not to have enough money of our own to buy nice things on a whim. We must rely on others to gift them to us. I have to grit my teeth, and bow and simper with feigned gratitude and wonder, while Jo whispers in my ear a series of threats mixed with promises to allow me to buy books we don’t have already, in compensation. 

So, I think I was predisposed to be hostile to this text because it came from my Father-in-law.

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