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Holidays on Ice    by David Sedaris order for
Holidays on Ice
by David Sedaris
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 1998 (1997)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Keep this small volume around for the times when holiday commercialism is overwhelming, December shopping crowds enraging, or you just generally feel like Ebenezer Scrooge; you'll encounter a kindred spirit via David Sedaris' caustic commentary. In six short stories he satirizes: shopping mall Santas, annual holiday newsletters, the unexpected Christmas guest, elementary school shows, and taking giving to extremes.

SantaLand Diaries takes us behind the scenes of shopping mall Christmas displays and their Santas, as the author is hired as Crumpet, a 'Full-time elf' (which he considers much superior to a position 'standing on some street corner dressed as a french fry.' Be warned that reading this story will prevent you from ever again gazing sentimentally at such Santas and the folk flocking around them. First the author tells us about the 'Vomit Corner' and the 'Oh, My God, Corner'. Then he mentions the spotted child who 'expressed a wish to recover from chicken pox' (while in Santa's lap); you get the idea.

I normally write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends, but I don't know if I can do it this year after reading the scathing Sedaris version of Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!! The Dunbar clan have indeed had a momentous year, including the arrival of a long-lost half sister from Vietnam, a crack baby, and a murder investigation. Then there's the tale of Dinah, the Christmas Whore, who creates a very special family 'Ho, ho, ho' memory. There's a series of vitriolic critiques of young Christmas players in Front Row Central with Thaddeus Bristol. A television executive on the make takes over a pulpit in Based Upon a True Story. And finally, you'll see keeping up with the Joneses in an entirely new (and starker) light after reading about the excesses in Christmas Means Giving.

While some will find the satire bites too deeply in Holidays on Ice, its dark humor is extrapolated and exaggerated from uncomfortable realities of the season, and it makes you think. So, imbibe this small volume as an antidode to excessive seasonal sentimentality or stuff it in the stocking of someone that you know will appreciate it, but do write your Christmas letter and sit on Santa's knee first; those experiences will never be the same again.

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