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Holidays on Ice
by David Sedaris

Overall: 7
Readability: 10
Intelligence: 8

Holidays on Ice is a collection of essays and short stories written by David Sedaris. His best known story is "SantaLand Diaries," in which he recounts his experiences as a Macy's Christmas Elf. It was originally broadcast on NPR, and it cought the attention of some publishers who asked him to write a series of Christmas stories. Not wanting to be solely associated with Christmas, Sedaris vowed to write the strangest, most unusual stories he could.

There are 6 parts to Holidays on Ice
  • SantaLand Diaries - This story alone is worth the price of the book. Sedaris chronicles his time as a Macy's elf, from the interview process and training seminars to full blown elfdom. He focuses mostly on the depraved stupidity of parents who can't be bothered to pay attention to their children, but he balances that out by belittling himself. He is, after all, a 33 year old man in an elf suit. Its the funniest thing in the book.
  • Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!! This is the only story I didn't like in the book. The story is written as a chipper family holiday newsletter, but it soon tumbles into some nasty holiday happenings. I can however, respect Sedaris' attempt. He's playing with fire here, as he is for most of the rest of the book, but in this case, I don't think he pulled it off.
  • Dinah, the Christmas Whore - The touching tale of Sedaris' disenchantment and subsequent revolt against the sheepish holiday season, followed by the realization that his family isn't quite as simplistic as they seem. As usual, the story is hilarious.
  • Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol - Sedaris at his vicious best, heaping scorn on children's Christmas pageants. Sedaris is the type who can make mean spirited critiques of children work.
  • Based Upon a True Story - Another mean-spirited tale, this time condemning the sickening tendencies of television producers and their search for holiday inspiration. Sedaris sets up his premise, and relentlessly drives the point home with an uncommon ferociousness. Once again, he manages to make this work.
  • Christmas Means Giving - Yet another dreadfully funny story. This story concerns two rich families who who can't stop competing with each other, to the point of ruin.
Sedaris is at his best when he focuses on his observations of real characters and events. The non-fiction stories listed above are the best of the lot, while the fictional stories end up coming off mean spirited and sometimes sickening. As I mentioned above, he can pull that off (as in "Based Upon a True Story"), but sometimes he drops the ball (as in "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!", which really dampened my spirits). Still, he almost always manages to be funny, and given his goal of creating the strangest, most unusual Christmas stories, I think its worth cutting him some slack...

the Unofficial David Sedaris Internet Resource
The Santa Land Diaries (realaudio) :A full 30-minute audio version Buy it here!

Page 1 - "During the brief interview I was asked why I wanted to work for UPS and I answered that I wanted to work for UPS because I like the brown uniforms."
Page 13 - "I was at the Magic Window for fifteen minutes before a man approached me and said, 'You look so fucking stupid.' I have to admit that he had a point. But still, I wanted to say that at least I get paid to look stupid, that he gives it away for free. But I can't say things like that because I'm supposed to be merry."
Page 28 - "The woman grabbed my arm and said, 'You there, Elf, tell Riley here that if he doesn't start behaving immediately, then Santa's going to change his mind and bring him coal for Christmas.' I said that Santa no longer traffics in coal. Instead, if you're bad he comes to your house and steals things."
Page 33 - "We were packed today, absolutely packed, and everyone was cranky. Once the line gets long we break it up into four different lines because anyone in their right mind would leave if the knew it would take over two hours to see Santa. Two hours - you could see a movie in two hours. Standing in a two hour line makes people worry that they're not living in a democratic nation. People stand in line for two hours and they go over the edge. I was sent into the hallway to direct the second phase of the line. The hallway was packed with people, and all of them seemed to stop me with a question: which way to the down escalator, which way to the elevator, the Patio Restaurant, gift wrap, the women's rest room, Trim-A-Tree. There was a line for Santa and a line for the women's bathroom, and one woman, after asking me a dozen questions already asked, "Which is the line for the women's bathroom?" I shouted that I thought it was the line with all the women in it.

She said, "I'm going to have you fired."

I had two people say that to me today, "I'm going to have you fired." Go ahead, be my guest. I'm wearing a green velvet costume; it doesn't get any worse than this. Who do these people think they are?

"I'm going to have you fired!" And I wanted to lean over and say, "I'm going to have you killed."
Page 74 - "It was my dream to create and star in a program called 'Socrates and Company,' in which I would travel from place to place accompanied by a brilliant and loyal proboscis monkey. Socrates and I wouldn't go looking for trouble, but week after week it would manage to find us. 'The eyes, Socrates, go for the eyes,' I'd yell during one of our many fight scenes."

Further Discussion:
Does Sedaris get away with the sickening ending of "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!"?
Ever worked as an elf?

Santaland Diaries & Seasons Greetings: 2 Plays
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays by David Sedaris
Naked by David Sedaris

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