Christmas at the New Yorker, From the editors of the New Yorker with a foreword by John Updike. Random House. 320 pages. $35.
In shops that I go to today, gap-toothed plastic pumpkins glower at red- nose reindeer, which threaten to leap the aisle and kick their goblins out. It's warfare between Halloween and Christmas. Crass commercialization of holidays of spiritual tradition is ancient and unrelenting; get over it. But that's no cause for forgoing the delights of Christmas -- deep or casual. No publication in history has ever delivered on those delights better than has The New Yorker. And here in an astonishing richness of wit and dignity, acid and humane letters, is a compilation of the best stuff on the subject that magazine has offered since its birth in 1925. There are short stories, some of them now classics, bits of humor, poems, prose both provocative and celebratory -- all of it artful. And illustrations -- covers and cartoons that are immortal. It's too early to tune up the carols -- but just the right time to get this splendid collection, in preparation for the lushest of all holidays.