Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

I have no idea why I picked this up to read now since it is July. I've never read anything by David Sedaris before. But I was looking for something quick to read that I could read in bits while I feed my baby. Suffice it to say that I don't have a lot of free hands while I'm feeding my baby.

And I don't have a lot of mindspace either because I have Mommy Brain. Turns out that's what you get when you are sleeping in stretches of no more than 2 to 3 hours at a time.

Rest assured though. The next book I picked up is Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

This book was written by David Sedaris. In case you don't know who he is, his sister is Amy Sedaris, of Strangers With Candy fame. I reviewed her entertainment/cook book several months ago. I won both these books in a Hatchette giveaway.

Anyway, I enjoyed these short stories. I wasn't sure I would when I got started. I was discussing Sedaris's humor with my husband, and I think it is fair to compare his humor to that of Larry David. If you enjoy his show (which I do sometimes) or liked Seinfeld (which I usually did), then you will probably like Sedaris (again, I do sometimes).

Sedaris's humor is the type that creates a scene like that in Seinfeld where George's fiance, Susan, dies after licking cheap envelopes that came with the wedding invitations George bought.

Let's start from the beginning of Sedaris's book [spoilers alert]:

SantaLand Diaries: Very funny tale about the trials and tribulations of being a department store elf at Christmas.

Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family: A holiday letter written by a wife angered by the announcement that her husband has an estranged daughter born after an affair during the Vietnam War. The letter and the story take a turn when the baby dies in a washing machine and dryer cycle.

Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol: A complaint about school holiday plays. Forgettable, and I wasn't sure I wanted to finish the book from there.

Lucky for you, I did continue reading.

Based Upon a True Story: A reality tv show producer gives the Holiday Sermon in a local church hoping to pursuade churchgoers to convince one of the members to sell her story to him. Apparently, she transplanted her kidney into her son in her barn with no prior medical experience.

Christmas Means Giving: Story of two families who continuously battle to see who can keep up to spend the most money buying holiday gifts turns into a contest to see who can donate the most money to charity ends only when both families are destitute and homeless.

Dinah, the Christmas Whore: One of my favorite stories from the book. Tale about David's sister Lisa who rescues a prostitute from a beating just before Christmas. Dinah, the prostitute, is a woman Lisa met while working at the Piccadilly cafeteria. I wonder if this tale has any truth to it. I was fascinated by his implication that prostitutes are people too. Sedaris began the story concerned about sameness and lack of individuality at holiday time but realized that his family was different because his sister befriended and took in a prostitute.

Jesus Shaves: Pretty funny story about trying to describe Easter and its Christian meaning in French class. Apparently, it doesn't translate into French.

Us and Them: Another story about David's family. In this one, David is mystified by a family, the Tomkeys, who don't have a television. Then for Halloween, the Tomkeys trick or treat the next day after. David's mother tries to get the kids to share their own Halloween candy and David stuffs nearly all his candy in his mouth to avoid doing so.

Let It Snow: The Sedaris family during an unexpected big snowfall. Their mother gets sick of the kids, kicks them out of the house, but then comes to rescue them in her house dress and slippers in the snow.

Six to Eight Black Men: An explanation of Christmas and St. Nicholas in the Netherlands. This one was pretty funny. As Americans, we are all told the same story about Santa Claus living in the North Pole. In the Netherlands, he is skinny, used to serve as the bishop to Turkey, lives in Spain, and travels with six to eight black men. Sedaris points out that Christmas stories also don't translate well from one language to another.

The Monster Mash: David's experience spending time in the medical examiner's office over Halloween.

The Cow and the Turkey: In this allegorical tale, the farm animals all choose names for Secret Santas to give presents at Christmas. The cow is notoriously cheap and whines about the secret part of the Santa exchange. He is the only one who knows that the turkey is to be slaughtered for Christmas dinner and so he wants to choose turkey as the gift recipient. He thinks he has gotten away with it until he discovers the turkey was to be his Secret Santa. I call this an allegory, but honestly, I'm not sure what the deeper meaning of this tale is.

Overall, I thought these stories were funny, and I laughed out loud in lots of places. Some of them, especially the Season's Greetings letter, were crude humor. Then again, I just had a baby, so I'm not into stories about babies dying at the hands of a crazed baby sitter. I do think I would read another book by David Sedaris.


hamilcar barca said...

Me Talk Pretty Some Day is another excellent Sedaris book. another one, Dress Your Family in Denim... has been on my TBR shelf for far too long. maybe this will motivate me to read it. i like his humor.

Unknown said...

I have TOTALLY read while feeding the baby, I can SO sympathize! I highly recommend reading Aurora Leigh by E.B. Browning out loud. Something about the iambic pentameter puts the baby right to sleep.

Amanda said...

I have to confess, David Sedaris does not interest me in the least. Everything I've read about his books is just mildly distasteful. I know lots of people like them. I just don't think I'd be one of them.

hamilcar barca said...

writers like Bill Bryson and Dave Barry are in the same genre, albeit with a somewhat gentler shade of wit. but i don't think this is the sort of genre you're into, Amanda.

OTOH, anything by Sedaris qualifies for the LGBT challenge. so you might end up reading one of his books down the road.

Amanda said...

Eh. There are a million books I could read for GLBT. I think I'll pass. :)

On the other hand, I do like Dave Barry. But Bill Bryson's another one I'm not interested in.

L said...

I've got his Engulfed in Flames in my pile to read next. Love Seinfeld, buttered Kramer and all.

This one sounds good. Anything that produces a laugh, then a groan, then a sigh is all right by me. Great review!

When I had my last little "surprise" baby three years ago, to help with the late night wakings I watched the new Pride and Prejudice movie in installments over and over again. I know that movie, and the mini-series well. Still.

Julie said...

Speaking of a mini-series that you can watch in installments, one that I really got into during my baby mode was Masterpiece Theatre's The Forsyte Saga (2003) based on the novels by John Galsworthy. I really loved the characters and actors like Damian Lewis and Rupert Graves were amazing! Anyway, It kept me going those late nights.
Speaking of your book review, I've never read anything by David Sedaris before and, like Amanda, I'm not sure if it is for me. Perhaps one day, I'll find out but I have enough to read for now. Although, I do like some of Seinfeld's humor and I do remember that whole licking envelope episode.
Great review!

Trixie said...

Thanks, guys!
Off topic question for anyone who's been updating their book lists to the right side of the blog there. I got my list updated and linked to my review, but how do I change the number of books I've read?

Amanda said...

Trixie - there should be a little crossed tools symbol on the sidebar, and when you click on that you can change your count under your name.

Trixie said...

Never mind. I figured it out. Had to click the little tool thingy on the side.

Ceri said...

I haven't read this but I'm a big fan of David Sedaris. I find him so funny.

Magenta Baribeau said...

Hi! I have a question for you. I'm a translator working on translating a book, looking for a quote from HOLIDAYS ON ICE. Amazon and Chapters are out of it. I can't find it anywhere. Could you help me out. Do you still have the book? Could you help me find a sentence in there. Thanks! Please email me your reply please: magentabaribeau at gmail thanks!!

Trixie said...

The book is packed away in storage. Sorry!