Books »Holidays on Ice

holidays on ice sedarisIt's been decades since The Christmas Story was made and an instant Christmas classic was finally available for the unsentimental and droll crowd. With the publication of Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, we now have something to read too to get us in our own kind of holiday spirit. The slender volume contains the writer and wit's best holidays short stories and essays and can fit easily into your pocket for relief during what might become long and treacherous flights and train rides home.

The best of the bunch are his observational stories about his own life experiences: Santaland Diaries and Dinah: The Christmas Whore. The first is a hilarious diatribe about the trial and tribulations of working as an elf in Macy's Santaland. With aspirations to become a champagne sipping soap opera writer, Sedaris instead found himself at age 30 in a velveteen coat and tights dealing with over zealous “Santas” and horrid parents who tell him “I'm going to have you fired” – his imaginary response: “I'm going have you killed”.

It's the story that launched Sedaris' now triumphant career when he read it in 1992 on NPR's This American Life (a former Brix Pick and a wonderful thing). You really must listen to him tell the tale after reading it, particularly for his rendition of a Billie Holiday style “Away in a Manger” that just doesn't sparkle as much on the page.

Dinah The Christmas Whore was also published in his most popular book, Naked. In it, David sister Lisa shows a different side to her when she rescues a prostitute from a bad scene and brings her over to the Sedaris house on Christmas eve. It's surprisingly uplifting.

My other favorite that has me laughing aloud is Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol, the uproarious and caustic reviews of children's Christmas pageants that include the critisicms:

“In the role of Mary, six year old Shannon Burke just barely manages to pass herself off as a virgin.”


“Although the program listed no director, the apathetic staging suggests the limp, paralyzed hand of Sister Mary Elizabeth Bronson, who should have been excommunicated after last season's disastrous Thanksgiving program.”

Many of the other stories are darker than I recalled with infanticide and manipulation of the poor, but they still manage to be darkly humorous in the way that only he can pull off.

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Posted on December 22, 2008

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