Saturday, February 25, 2006

Holidays On Ice, by David Sedaris

(pb; 1997)

From the back cover:

Holidays On Ice collects six of David Sedaris’s most profound Christmas stories into one slender volume perfect for use as a last-minute coaster or ice scraper. This drinking man’s companion can be enjoyed by the warmth of a raging fire, the glow of a brilliantly decorated tree, or even in the backseat of a van or police car. It should be read with your eyes, felt with your heart, and heard only when spoken to. It should, in short, behave much like a book...”

Overall review:

This slim mini-volume of six stories – spanning 134-pages – should appeal to those whose idea of a perfect Christmas flick is Bad Santa (2005) or The Ref (1994), particularly the stories “SantaLand Diaries,” “Season’s Greetings To Our Friends & Family!!!,” and “Christmas Means Giving.” The writing, generally speaking, is good, but I’d recommend one of Sedaris’s other anthologies (Me Talk Pretty One Day) over this, as this is an uneven literary mix.

Review, story by story:

“SantaLand Diaries”: Sedaris reveals (and revels in, and bitches about) the seedy underside of chain-store Santas and elves, and the idiots, known as the public, that come to see them. Occasionally sad, sometimes horrific, and often hilarious, Sedaris turns SantaLand into a microcosmic commentary of our society. My favorite story in this bunch.

“Season’s Greetings to Our Friends & Family!!!”: A newsletter from a woman (Jocelyn Dunbar) which starts out cheerful, but quickly devolves into a rant, filled with black humor, exclamation points and family dysfunction, all taken to an insane level. I gasped more than I laughed at how nasty – and infinitely ugly – this over-the-top “newsletter” gets. Author Sedaris overplays the shocking humor of the piece here and there, but anybody who reads this won’t forget it anytime soon. Solid, but long.

“Dinah, the Christmas Whore”: Lisa Sedaris, David’s older (and then eighteen-year old) sister, rescues an abused alcoholic prostitute from an abusive boyfriend by bringing her over to the Sedaris household during the holidays. Less over-the-top and funny than the two previous stories, it’s well-written, and like the aforementioned stories, has a worthwhile point to make.

“Front Row Center With Thaddeus Bristol”: Boring, meant-to-be-funny-but-it’s-not skewering of elementary school Christmas plays. It’s mercifully brief (less than ten pages), but it lacks the spark and wit that usually highlights Sedaris’s writing.

“Based Upon A True Story”: A smug, pushy television producer tries to win the support of redneck churchgoers so he can get a woman’s permission to film her life story. This is intermittently funny, but the story fizzles out long before its ending.

“Christmas Means Giving”: Two well-to-do suburban families compete for status among their neighborhood peers. Sedaris takes the story-title sentiment to gory, occasionally shocking lengths, but its gallows humor is largely inspired, even with its predictable ending. Great story.

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