My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Holidays on Ice was my first exposure to David Sedaris. A friend gave this book to me a few years ago; she rated it five stars on Goodreads. I suggested it as our kick-off book for our brand-new book group, not knowing that I would not end up liking the book much myself!
"The Santaland Diaries," the first story in the collection, has been expanded into a hilarious one-man play. We first saw it at Portland Center Stage years ago and will see it again this coming Sunday. It details Sedaris' experience working as an elf in Macy's Santaland. I enjoyed the essay, although it's even better as a play. (This is why I gave the book two stars--because of this one funny piece!)
However, then it goes downhill rapidly. The rest of the essays are a mishmash of items:
"Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" is an over-the-top parody of a holiday letter, in which the family matriarch recounts her family's travails over the previous year. She discovered that her husband had fathered a child in Vietnam, who suddenly shows up on their doorstep--she is, presumably, a prostitute or at the very least, a seductress who tries to put the make on her own father and stepbrother. The matriarch's drug addict daughter gives birth, and she ends up taking care of the baby. One day she leaves the baby in the young Vietnamese woman's care, and tragedy ensues, for which the the matriarch is going to be prosecuted. Suffice it to say that I find nothing about dead babies amusing.
In "Dinah the Christmas Whore," Sedaris recalls the Christmas in which he helped his sister rescue a prostitute from her abusive boyfriend and bring her back home to their family. I don't find prostitution or violence against women to be humorous, either.
"Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol" was completely unmemorable.
In "Based on a True Story," an obnoxious movie producer takes over the pulpit at a small-town church, trying to convince the occupants to let him film a movie in their town. Sedaris was trying way too hard. Blech.
"Christmas Means Giving" parodied neighbors' desire to outdo one another, escalating into completely unreal and ridiculous scenarios.
I love fine parody. I adore Jon Stewart. I liked Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal." I liked the movie "Delicatessen." I can do dark humor. But this first introduction to David Sedaris makes me wonder if I'm one of the few who does not care for him. I will try one more book of his before I make my final conclusion. Maybe his memoirs are better.