R&R 115 | Holidays on Ice
Christmas-themed R&R 115 takes priority over non-Christmas-themed R&R 114. Yup.
Holidays on Ice
First published in: 1997
This edition: First Back Bay paperback, 1998
Cover design by Rymn Massand; cover photograph by James Smolka
Ah, yuletide is upon us once more. I heart the holidays; it's currently cold and very, very white outside (this is the snowiest winter in years for this part of Europe), but I'm warm and gleeful because it is Christmas Eve, and Christmas is almost here. I love the lights, candy canes, baubles and tinsel ("Ohhh… SHINY!") and – yes – I'm sure I'd get a kick out of egg nog but it's not really a thing here. I'm not fanatical about Christmas, but it does qualify as my favorite holiday of the year. And this year, I couldn't resist incorporating my favorite festive season into my favorite activity: reading. It's Christmas… David Sedaris style.
Holidays on Ice is a small bundle containing six Christmas stories; perfect for an entertaining and quick read during the busy holidays.
The collection starts off with a hit: the SantaLand Diaries is now one of my very favorite Sedaris stories. It's take your reader to work day weeks; Sedaris describes, in glorious detail, what it's like to work as an elf at Macy's SantaLand. There's an Elf for everything (Window Elf, Exit Elf, Photo Elf, you name it…), and Sedaris introduces the reader the other side of mall Santa madness. Immediately, Sedaris shows his satirical side, but his bluntness is nothing compared to that of the second story, Season's Greetings to our Friends and Family!!!
A parody on the quintessential Christmas Letter, the Dunbar family matriarch describes to anyone who'll read it her horror at having to take in her husband's illegitimate lovechild. It's almost scary how well Sedaris pulls off Mrs. Dunbar's voice. It's almost as if this letter actually is written by a crazy, neurotic and embittered woman who uses far too many exclamation points to keep up appearances (but failing miserably).
The narrator is severely unreliable: nothing she writes can be taken at face value. Which makes it even funnier. Um, but if you're into political correctness, this book is so not for you. There's no mercy…
Not even for baby's.
Sedaris dials the sadism down in the third story, which features the beloved Sedaris family – I love Sedaris' stories about his family! – and one special house guest: Dinah, the Christmas whore. The title is absolutely the funniest, but the story itself is not the catchiest. But it does show the most Christmas spirit, and that makes it a winner: the Sedaris family seriously couldn't care less that Dinah's a prostitute and welcomes her into their home. Ah, it's sweet.
Sedaris has a reputation to uphold: Dinah's story was cute, but it's time to move on. Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol has him reviewing elementary school plays. Thaddeus stamps all over them.
In the role of Mary, six year-old Shannon Burke just barely manages to pass herself off as a virgin. A cloying, preening stage presence, her performance seemed based on nothing but an annoying proclivity toward lifting her skirt and, on rare occasions, opening her eyes.
– Front Row with Thaddeus Bristol, p. 95
And here I was thinking Season's Greetings!!! was evil. Ohhhh, the nastiness of Thaddeus Bristol. Delicious reading material. I ate it up.
The fifth story is a bit of a snoozer though; Based on a True Story is a speech by an obnoxious television exec (with regular pauses for effect added in there), and while it was certainly riddled with humor, I think the voice Sedaris had created was (again) too convincing and it had an adverse effect on me. I kinda didn't want to hear a word this douche – the exec, not Sedaris – had to say anymore. Based on a True Story was also the least Christmas-y of them all, and thus the weakest link in this collection.
Sedaris brings it home with a fantastic story, mocking materialism and competitiveness. Christmas Means Giving, sure – but with your heart, and for the right reasons. It was a perfect story to close with.
HOLIDAYS ON ICE is a short and (not so) sweet collection, but the content is a delight, no story the same.
I opened Holidays on Ice because of Christmas spirit; six completely different stories later, I'm smiling and already putting this one back on my TBR-pile – for next year. I have annual Christmas movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas. The Grinch. Bad Santa. Methinkst I now have a book to read every Christmas, too.
— Fin —
A few more reviews and an end-of-year post will be posted before 2011.