GIFT BOOKS 1985 : Calendars


The calendars for 1986 are here. Of course, most of them have been around for a while, but it’s time to get serious, now that the chilly winds do blow, relatively speaking. Soon--much too soon--Jan. 1 will be upon us.

Quick--what day does it fall on? As I said, it’s time to get serious about calendars.

These modestly priced, terribly useful little packages make swell gifts for those friends/relatives too cheap to buy their own, or too lazy to stop by the bank for a freebie.

Here are a few examples, selected arbitrarily and just as randomly lumped into categories any narrow-minded pigeon-holer would smile upon.



The Alice Walker Calendar (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $8.95) is a handsome desk edition highlighting photographs of and graceful excerpts by the gifted black writer. Inspiring. On the bland side is the George Eliot Calendar Diary (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: $12.95), which contains a mere sprinkle of dull pictures and the occasional snippet of correspondence or book excerpt. Most stunning of all, perhaps, is The Medieval Woman (New York Graphic Society: $12.95), a small but brilliantly illustrated volume beautifully bound, showing in full-color illustrations of the period how women lived and worked. Two more offerings display art by women: Great Women Painters (Abbeville, 505 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022: $7.95) and In Praise of Women Artists (Bo-Tree, 1137 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto 94303: $7.95). The former impresses more, thanks to better layout and superior art.


First, the predictable, not-so-clever-anymore, 1986 edition of A Woman Looks at Men’s Buns (New American Library: $7.95), focusing on athletes this time. For die-hard lovers of male Sitzfleisch only. Fans of big, ugly and hairless will be captivated by the Wrestling Calendar (Putnam’s: $8.95), featuring some macho heroes in a mild collection of action and studio shots (Wendy Richter is the token female here). The Miami Vice craze is represented in a boring collection (Ballantine: $6.95) that shows Don Johnson looking as cold, charmless and impersonal as his ever-present shades. The Gold Medal Men Calendar (Perigee: $7.95) reveals a pleasant look at our Olympic swimmers posing in Speedos, showing off their, uh, medals. A single entry in the Why-Can’t-You-Like-Me-for-My-Mind category is the Albert Einstein Calendar (Pomegranate: $7.95), exploring in words and pictures the man’s special brilliance.


The most delightful surprise in this year’s crop is the Esquire Vargas Girl Calendar (Abrams: $7.95), reproducing the big-selling (3 million!) 1946 edition of 13 beauties lovingly painted by Alberto Vargas. Charming and, amazingly, still coyly erotic. Not so coy is the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar (Little Brown: $9.95), inspired by the magazine’s hot-selling girlie issue. Once again, a nifty, large-format gathering of beauties in mini- to micro-attire. The actual calendar, as always, is unusable--if anyone cares. Judging from the Jerry Hall Pin-Up Calendar (Workman: $7.95), Mick Jagger is no judge of women, though he sure has nice lips and dresses cute. His lady looks quite silly in this ugly, forced, unsexy, witless collection. Note the rip-off Marilyn pose on the front.


As usual, the National Audubon Society leads the way with a trio of beauties: Nature and Wild Bird Calendars (Scribner’s: $6.95) and the Engagement Calendar (Scribner’s: $7.95). Fresh, eye-catching photos and a clean, crisp layout. Also recommended is Birds (Workman: $6.95), a colorful collection of paintings and photographs by the legendary Roger Tory Peterson. Of more limited appeal is The Bird Identification Calendar (Viking/Penguin: $7.95), mainly for those interested in the subject. Six or seven birds are pictured each month (lovely paintings by John Sill), accompanied by brief, breezy descriptions. Cousteau buffs may want to dive into the Undersea World Calendar (Scribner’s: $6.95), although the photos tend toward the dull and dark.


If a world totally devoid of humanity is your idea of a good time, try John Fielder’s California (Westcliff: $8.95) or the Ansel Adams Calendar (Little, Brown: $12.95). The former shows an endless expanse of rugged coastlines and wide open spaces, with nary a condo in sight. The latter, as expected, gives a glimpse of the late photographer’s special gifts. The black-and-whites are meticulously reproduced on a large format. Still, didn’t anyone ever tell this guy about Kodachrome? Lowell Herrero’s America (Beaufort: $7.95) presents an old-fashioned look at our land, through a charming collection of the artist’s primitivist paintings. Two jolly good peeks at England are worthy of attention: James Herriot’s Yorkshire Calendar (St. Martin’s: $7.95), with its emphasis on pastorale landscapes, and English Country Calendar (Thames & Hudson: $8.95), which stresses quaint cottages.


Our President will never escape his past. Certainly The Ronnie Calendar (Simon & Schuster: $7.95) won’t let him. A side-splitting look at Reagan-the-matinee idol, plugging cigarettes, shirts, hair tonic and his films in the ‘40s and ‘50s--even posing in his undies for a sculpture class. Next, two masters of dead-pan insanity--Glen Baxter and Gary Larsen. Glen Baxter’s Calendar (Penguin: $7.95) offers OK, ‘40s-style illustrations with outrageous captions. Larsen is represented by the Far Side Calendar (Andrews, McMeel & Parker: $7.50) and Off-the-Wall Desk Calendar (Andrews, McMeel & Parker: $6.95). If you’d rather smile than laugh through the year, enjoy Hans Wilhelm’s Mother Goose (Sterling: $7.95). The kids--at least my kids--will love it!