Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 168 pages, 1997, 2008

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: Sedaris is good for my inner cynic.

Synopsis: Sedaris has added to his 1997 collection of holiday-themed essays and humorous pieces with a few works that were originally published elsewhere since that time, and one entirely new piece. The topics range from Sedaris’ time spent working as a shopping mall elf, to a Halloween spent at the coroner’s office, to the hopelessness of people who are learning another language (French) trying to explain Easter to someone from another culture.

Why you should read this book: Make no mistake, this collection will not warm your heart and fill you up with holiday cheer. It will, however, make you laugh as Sedaris pokes fun at some of our most treasured holidays and traditions. He writes a ‘critique’ of children’s Christmas productions; sends us a joke holiday letter in which a crazed mother tries to put a positive spin on her husband’s war-child showing up on their front steps, fully ready to destroy their lives; and writes as a smarmy made-for-tv movie producer, trying to convince a town to guilt-trip a member of their community into selling him her story of a Christmas miracle. There is some pure gold in here, especially when Sedaris talks about his job as a Macy’s elf, a messy affair of bad children, worse parents, and a Santa who takes his job very, very seriously. Karmically disastrous, but worth each lump of coal you’ll get in your stocking for laughing.

Why you should avoid this book: If you’ve already read the original version of Holidays on Ice, and you’ve read Sedaris’ subsequent books, you would only be getting one new essay in this re-release, so you might not feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth as much as if you’re a newer Sedaris reader. I also have to confess I prefer Sedaris working strictly as an observor of life, which are the funnier bits of Holidays on Ice compared to the non-personal pieces.

Opening paragraph:

I was in a coffee shop looking through the want ads when I read, ‘Macy’s Herald Square, the largest store in the world, has big opportunities for outgoing, fun-loving people of all shapes and sizes who want more than just a holiday job! Working as an elf in Macy’s SantaLand means being at the center of the excitement…’

Fabulous quotes:

The overall cutest elf is a fellow from Queens named Snowball. Snowball tends to ham it up with the children, sometimes literally tumbling down the path to Santa’s house. I tend to frown on that sort of behavior but Snowball is hands down adorable – you want to put him in your pocket. Yesterday we worked together as Santa Elves and i became excited when he started saying things like, ‘I’d like to follow you to Santa’s house any day, Crumpet.’
It made me dizzy, this flirtation.

‘Why if it isn’t Lisa Fucking Sedaris. I should have known that bitch would call a fucking bitch like you.’
I would have been less shocked had a seal called my sister by name. How was it that she knew this man? Staggeringly drunk, the wasted, boozy Popeye charged in our direction, and Lisa rushed to meet him.

Also recommended: I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris; Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs; The Learners by Chip Kidd.

Also by this author: Barrel Fever; Naked; Me Talk Pretty One Day; Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim; When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

Fun tidbit: The essay ‘Santaland Diaries’ about Sedaris’ time as a Macy’s elf has been turned into a short play.

Would I read more by this author? I have Barrel Fever and Naked left to read of Sedaris’ current books…but I’ll try not to binge so I still have something left to look forward to reading.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008

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