The holiday period, meaning very specifically the one we're in right now, always carries with it traditions - things that we do simply because our forebears did them. I guess it's a way of honoring them and at the same time recognizing ourselves to be in their succession - a way of reinforcing who it is we think we are. And yes, we have some holiday traditions here at Isthmus.
One of them appears in this week's Isthmus Books Quarterly: The lead story replicates the Joel Gersmann tradition of a year-end recital of his favorite reads through the year. Gersmann was executive director of Broom Street Theater and author of the above-mentioned December reading roundup in our pages for 29 years, until his death in June of 2005.
Handling the chores this year - each citing a handful of books that moved them in 2006 - are six local traffickers of the printed word. Was the term "literati" ever more aptly applied than in the case of Rae Meadows, Mukoma Ngugi, Rosemary Zurlo-Cuva, Dean Bakopoulos, Maureen Leary and Oscar Mireles? I think not. And I think you will appreciate their recommendations.
Another tradition perhaps not noted by the general public but that I've observed in presiding over this enterprise for more than 30 years is the penchant of staff to come up with a cover story that is more somber than the seasonal expectation. We do it again this week with Nathan Comp's report, "War Without End." While most of us will find respite from quotidian cares during the holidays, many of us won't, including some returnees from the war in Iraq. Post-traumatic stress disorder is on the rise again, the inevitable byproduct of the violent conflict.
PTDS is an old acquaintance from the Vietnam years. Actually, it's existed as long war has, but has only been recognized as a legitimate pathology by name in the past few decades. The good news is that we are able and willing to recognize it earlier than in the past and that there are therapies available to combat it. The bad news is that it persists in spreading pain among the afflicted and their loved ones. It is a dose of evil in our society that comes with drinking from the cup of war. Women soldiers, as stated in a companion piece by Vikki Kratz, must deal with it too, along with a list of hazards peculiar to their gender.