For the past week I have been reading David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice, a short collection of essays, each of which is a reflection of our culture’s attitudes and behaviors around the Christmas season. I do not consider myself an avid reader, but I found this comical collection hard to put down. While at times I found the book discouraging, I feel that it was well worth reading and would recommend reading it if to anyone who haven’t already.
David Sedaris is a well known author and comedian, making regular appearances on many National Public Radio programs such as Fresh Air and This American Life. He is the author of many bestselling books including Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed In Flames. He is known for his ability to make everyday situations into hilarious comedy sketches. The humor in his works are further enhanced when he reads them aloud.
Sedaris opens his book with a memoir called “The Santaland Diaries” in which he describes his experiences working as an elf in the Santaland at a Macy's in New York. He talks about his experiences with a combination of humor, spite and cynicism. In one section, he recalls the different requests made by customers regarding Santa’s racial identity, “...a woman approached me and whispered, ‘We would like a traditional Santa. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.’” Sedaris sends her to one of the store’s two African American Santas. “Two New Jersey families came together to see santa. Two loud unattractive husbands with two wives and four children between them. The children gathered around Santa and had their picture taken. When santa asked what the ten year old boy wanted for Christmas, His father shouted ‘A WOMAN! GET HIM A WOMAN, SANTA!’” Mr. Sedaris does a very good job of conveying humor while still putting out intelligent and meaningful analysis of our society’s holiday culture. In The Santaland Diaries, he’s depicts the greater american populace as a swarm of rude, impatient, and self important shoppers who pay little respect to anything other than themselves.
Many parts of the book however, do not reflect as much of his humor as they do his spite. An example where I see more spite than humor is in this excerpt from “Dinah, The Christmas Whore” “Kettles boiled over and steaks were routinely left to blacken on the grill as my co workers crept off to the stockroom to smoke and play cards or sometimes have sex. ‘It suddenly occurred to me that people are lazy’” There may be humor here, but to me this just sound like another person complaining about their job. It almost irritates me because if I want to hear this type of thing I can just talk to my friend who works at McDonalds. That being said, I found that changing my perspective as a reader and prepared myself for a book that was more analytical than comical it made things a bit more tolerable.
As I write this review, I feel I may not be giving the book it’s due credit. I feel that as a teenager, some of the humor may go over my head. While I do find much of the book funny and have often laughed through much of the santaland diaries, I feel that it is meant for a more mature audience. While teenagers who read this collection will find some things funny, much of the humor is aimed at a more adult audience. Much of his humor comes across as a deterrent rather than an incentive to keep reading. This passage from “Season’s Greeting to Our Friends and Family!!!” is something that many adults I know found funny but I found overly cynical and even angry. “When his tour of duty ended Clifford returned home, where, after making the second biggest decision of his life (I am referring of course to his brief eight month marriage to Doll Babcock), he and I were reunited.” I do understand that there is humor here. And I understand why it could be funny, I simply Don’t get it. I feel like the older you are, the funnier this would be. Since People my age have not yet experienced or are currently experiencing interactions like this it is hard to look back and laugh. I look forward to reading this book once I reach adulthood when I will understand more of his humor.
Holidays on ice is a book that will appeal the most to those who share Sedaris’ cynicism and dark humor. Even if you are not a fan of this sort of humor I would still recommend reading this book purely because of the variety of interesting content that it offers. It is also worth it just to have the cadence that is David Sedaris’s Writing course through your head. I feel that Sedaris set out to write a comedy and ended up writing a comedy as he planned, but ended up doing so much more. The book has a wide enough variety of humor that anyone can read and enjoy it, and he made it have enough of a plot so that those who don’t understand his all of his humor like I do can still enjoy this book. If you have not already, I seriously recommend reading it.