Saturday, 21 September 2019

HOLIDAYS ON ICE by David Sedaris

There was a period in 2011, not a very happy period, where I read David Sedaris very intensively.  I finished the majority of his books in a two week period.  This one I picked up when I was on a mini-break in Barcelona, and was facing the daunting prospect of a day at the beach without anything to read. Clear recipe for existential crisis: sun, sea, and my own thoughts.  So I borrowed this from my host’s bookcase, who while Spanish apparently reads in both French and English. 

By far the best of the short stories here is Sedaris’ famous SANTALAND DIARIES, that chronicles his time as an elf at Macy’s Christmas grotto.  Let me quote extensively, just because I feel like it:

I came home this afternoon and checked the machine for a message from UPS but the only message I got was from the company that holds my student loan, Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae sounds like a naive and barefoot hillbilly girl but in fact they are a ruthless and aggressive conglomeration of bullies located in a tall brick building somewhere in Kansas. I picture it to be the tallest building in that state and I have decided they hire their employees straight out of prison. It scares me.
The woman at Macy’s asked, “Would you be interested in full-time elf or evening and weekend elf?”
I said, “Full-time elf.”
I have an appointment next Wednesday at noon.
I am a thirty-three-year-old man applying for a job as an elf.
I often see people on the streets dressed as objects and handing out leaflets. I tend to avoid leaflets but it breaks my heart to see a grown man dressed as a taco. So, if there is a costume involved, I tend not only to accept the leaflet, but to accept it graciously, saying, “Thank you so much,” and thinking, You poor, pathetic son of a bitch. I don’t know what you have but I hope I never catch it. This afternoon on Lexington Avenue I accepted a leaflet from a man dressed as a camcorder. Hot dogs, peanuts, tacos, video cameras, these things make me sad because they don’t fit in on the streets. In a parade, maybe, but not on the streets. I figure that at least as an elf I will have a place; I’ll be in Santa’s Village with all the other elves. We will reside in a fluffy wonderland surrounded by candy canes and gingerbread shacks. It won’t be quite as sad as standing on some street corner dressed as a french fry.
Unfortunately, as this is an early collection, it also includes a format Sedaris has since wisely abandoned, which is fiction.  These stories are not great.  But the memoir pieces are amazing.  He basically invented the lightly comic personal essay as a genre, and is its undisputed king. 
In depressing news, in googling my own blog to figure out when I was on my Sedaris binge, I also found that the book of his I read last, THEFT BY FINDING, which I had remembered as recent was in fact two years ago.  Time only flies like that when you are either 1) having fun or 2) getting old.  Let’s hope in this case it is both


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