BURN PILE: George Saunders and Charlie Brown, John Steinbeck's two Christmases

Saunders_CutBank_CC "Merry Christmas, George Saunders." Roman Mars' excellent 99% Invisible podcast traced the origin of the Geico "Caveman" ad campaign to George Saunders' Pastoralia, and down an even deeper cultural rabbit hole. Along the way, Saunders speaks of his abiding love for Charlie Brown, a subject he's touched on more than once. "I used to love those Charlie Brown specials," he told Goodreads in January. "Charlie Brown would be humiliated for the 15th time. I think if you are writing about life in our time, one way you can tell that story is that there are a bunch of people in our country desperately trying not to be forced down into that territory of humiliation." We hope Saunders is, like us, settling in for an annual viewing of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." You should do the same, once you listen to the podcast.

John Steinbeck's two kinds of Christmas: One involves a small number of gifts, or a single present—for instance, "a dwarf, peach-faced parrot"—received with great reverence. The other involves a glut of packages, boxes and bags that fails to satisfy. Guess which type of Christmas Steinbeck compared America to?

CutBank's holiday wish? We'll take our lead from Mariah Carey: All we want is you. Stay tuned for more from CutBank during the holidays and through 2014.