Sunday, February 1, 2009

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Dammit Meagan, why would you post your review first just because I was too lazy to do it within a week of reading the book?

Well, I don't have much to add. This was the most fiction by David Sedaris that I've ever read, and I've gotta say that I prefer his memoir pieces. Most of his short stories are dark humor, and a wee bit twisted. I did really enjoy the reviews of elementary school Christmas plays by critic Thaddeus Bristol, who notes that "in the role of Mary, six-year-old Shannon Burke just barely manages to pass herself off as a virgin."

I think Meagan pointed out that the first story, "Santaland Diaries" (actually an anagram for "a Satan dines in lard") is now a play, but I can't imagine that it works very well. I like all of Sedaris's stories best over the radio, read either by him or someone else just as funny. Luckily most of them are online under NPR's archives, or This American Life's.

There are his non-fiction accounts of working as an elf, getting locked out of the house in the snow with his sisters, having Christmas drinks with his sister's friend who works at the K&W and is also a prostitute, and his visit to the morgue as an adult (just 'cause). The two that stand out are his fascination with the TV-less family in the neighborhood as a kid, and the retelling of the Dutch Christmas tradition. That last one, "Six to Eight Black Men," is one of my favorites of his.
While eight flying reindeer are a hard pill to swallow, our Christmas story remains relatively dull. Santa lives with his wife in a remote polar village and spends one night a year traveling around the world. If you're bad, he leaves you coal. If you're good and live in America, he'll give you just about anything you want. We tell our children to be good and send them off to bed, where they lie awake, anticipating their bounty. A Dutch parent has a decidedly harrier story to relate, telling his children, "Listen, you might want to pack a few of your things together before going to bed. The former bishop of Turkey will be coming tonight along with six to eight black men. They might put some candy in your shoes, they might stuff you in a sack and take you to Spain, or they might just pretend to kick you. We don't know for sure, but we want you to be prepared."

This is the reward for living in the Netherlands. As a child you get to hear this story, and as an adult you get to turn around and repeat it. As an added bonus, the government has thrown in legalized drugs and prostitution -- what's not to love about being Dutch?
Then there's the Christmas letter from the wife trying to deal with the arrival of her unknown Vietnamese step daughter, the family that outdoes each other in the spirit of Christmas, giving to the point of multiple organ donation, and a pretty good one about a selfish cow and a turkey and Secret Santa in a barn.

All in all, entertaining, especially if you're already a Sedaris fan. If not, I'd just listen to these, and start off with one of his other books, like Me Talk Pretty One Day.

You can hear "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!," "Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol," and "Based on a True Story" all in one episode here. You can also listen to "The Monster Mash" (about the trip to the morgue; gruesome, be warned), "The Cow and the Turkey" and "Santaland Diaries." You're welcome for looking up all those links. You'd damn well better use them, especially you, Christopher.


Christopher said...

I don't care for David Sedaris.

Meagan said...


well your review beats mine.

Christopher said...

I'm going to use the "Dammit Meagan" tag a ot

Jim said...

Haha I was just gonna read this, that woulda been funny.

Instead I'm going with Moby Dick. The logical replacement, you see.

Jim said...

Also I hope to one day have a career like David Sedaris where I can write one book 14 times and be on the NYT best sellers list every time.

Elizabeth said...

I think David Sedaris is hilarious. Especially Six to Eight Black Men.

Carlton Farmer said...

David Sedaris is extremely funny I don't agree that his writing is repetitive.

Nathan said...

I think Jim just means that some of his stories are repeated in different books.

Dammit Jim I was gonna read Moby Dick.

Nihil Novum said...

I read Moby Dick last year, you johnny come latelies. It's basically Holidays on Ice, Part II.

Jim said...

Nah I mean that his books are repetitive.

But I do like his books. Amy Sedaris is the funnier family member though.

Christopher said...

Speaking of which, Hulu totally has Strangers with Candy now.