Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'Holidays on Ice' by David Sedaris

Essays/stories, 1997/2008
Back Bay Books (Hachette Book Group), pb, 164 p.
From the publisher:
David Sedaris's beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy's elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris's tales of tardy trick-or-treaters ("Us and Them"); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French ("Jesus Shaves"); what to do when you've been locked out in a snowstorm ("Let It Snow"); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations ("Six to Eight Black Men"); what Halloween at the medical examiner's looks like ("The Monster Mash"); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry ("Cow and Turkey").

I don’t usually read holiday-themed books, but when I was in the book store a couple of weeks ago, this book caught my eye and on a whim I decided to get it. I’ve heard of David Sedaris and how funny he is, but I hadn’t yet read anything of his for myself. This past weekend seemed the time to finally do so.

Holidays on Ice is a mixed collection of essays and stories, some of them were obviously taken from, or inspired by, his real-life experiences, whereas others were pure fiction, or at least I hope so. One of the main reasons I don’t usually read Christmas books is because of the schmaltz factor. I have a low tolerance for cheesy (only in relation to books and movies, as a food I love the stuff!) and most holiday books are simply too sentimental and gooey for my taste. Well, these were definitely not cheesy and went almost to the other extreme. Some of the stories were actually quite dark and disturbing. I often like dark and disturbing in literary novels, and I realized that it was the attempt at humour here that I had trouble with. Like the flip way some of these horrible things were mentioned crossed some kind of line, and for me, verged on distasteful.

But don’t get me wrong. I chuckled several times while reading Holidays on Ice. Basically what I’ve come to realise is that I much prefer his personal essays. The stories with an obvious connection to his real-life were very funny. Like “SantaLand Diaries”, about his experience working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s, “Jesus Shaves” which recounts a particular lesson in the French class he took part in, or his musings on the Dutch celebration of Christmas in “Six to Eight Black Men”. These stories were genuinely funny. It was the more outlandish, sarcastic stories of tumble-drying babies, neglectful mothers, and vengeful talking cows that I think it’s safe to say I just didn’t find the humour in. I do want to try another of his books though to see if perhaps another time, another mood, and a different selection of stories, might be a better mix for me.

Which is your favourite David Sedaris book?

David Sedaris: The unquiet American (article in The Sunday Times)
A Life in Writing: David Sedaris (article in The Guardian)

Buy Holidays on Ice at: Amazon.com | BookDepository.com | BookDepository.co.uk

Also reviewed by:
Booking Mama
Devourer of Books
Maw Books Blog
Bloody Hell, It's a Book Barrage!
Shhh I'm Reading...
Trish's Reading Nook
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
S. Krishna's Books
Bermudaonion's Weblog
Stainless Steel Droppings
Bibliophile By the Sea
If I've missed yours, let me know and I'll link to it here.

The small print: I purchased this book for my personal library. Links in this post to Amazon (including book cover) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively. Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission. For more information please visit my About Page.

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