The advantages of being two-faced

The second day after Christmas–time for two annual post-Yule pursuits: eating cookies and confronting my holiday hypocrisy.  I have no qualms about scooping up epic post-season markdowns mere hours after The Day, yet I choose to be deeply offended by the sight of a discarded tree consigned to the curb after the same brief interval.   

So much for graceful transitions.  Faced with returning to work and gearing up for a new year after a long festive weekend, we’d do well to consider Janus’ approach.  According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, Janus (namesake for the month ahead) figured in Roman mythology as the guardian of doorways and gates and is typically shown with two faces, one looking forward and one backward. 

And I’ve just encountered two authors who neatly represent Janus’ visual field: William Dean Howells and James Hornfischer

Amid last week’s Christmas lore and holiday staff picks, I rediscovered Howell’s story, “Christmas Every Day“.  The library has a print copy, but you can read it online.  Not only will Howells’ droll tale likely echo your own views (about ending celebrations while they are still celebrative),  it samples an American literary legend whose significance would be difficult to exaggerate. 

Though Howell’s language can sound a bit dated, he was ahead of his time in terms of style, editorial influence, and fostering rising talents.  His short story “Editha”, also accessible in print and online, is one of my favorites and vividly conveys the timeless consequences of romanticizing war.

Janus would appreciate this pairing:  Howells’ forward-looking fiction of past eras and James Hornfischer’s contemporary nonfiction looking backward to history.  Naval historian and literary agent Hornfischer has published The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour;  Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR’s Legendary Lost Cruiser and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors; and Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal.

Not only has Mr. Hornfischer appeared on the The History Channel and C-SPAN’s Book TV and other venues, he’ll be live and in person at the January 16, 2012 discussion meeting for the Round Rock New Neighbors book group (check out their blog).

You don’t have to be a new resident to attend this lively group, which convenes on the third Monday of each month at 1:00 P.M. at the La Frontera Barnes & Noble.  You aren’t required to possess a prior attendance record to enjoy Mr. Hornfischer’s appearance.  Group members have been invited to read any or all of Hornfischer’s titles–all available at Barnes & Noble– in order to gain maximum benefit from this exciting author event, but come anyway if you haven’t finished (or even started) your reading yet. 

Those cookies won’t last through 2011, but 2012 evidently has treats in store.

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