Whenever I write a review of a book I listened to, the review becomes a reflection of my experience listening to the story told to me rather than my thoughts on the story. I always have to start with such a reflection because listening to audiobooks is still a new experience for me, one that I’m surprised I’ve stuck with for so long and have taken a liking to.
I would never have thought of myself as an avid listener of audiobooks, but the format is growing on me, especially since I mostly listen to it at work and most of my duties there are dull and repetitive so I look for other things to engage my mind. I surprised myself that I’m able to pay attention to and remember what’s said. I’m a visual learner and I struggle sometimes to focus when only listening, but it seems that my increasingly frequent use of audiobooks is training me to learn and remember things in a different way.
Unfortunately, this new turn in my learning development is slow and happened after I read Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.
Nonfiction – Humor, essays
It’s hard to describe David Sedaris to those who’ve never read him. Mixing autobiographical details with sharp sarcasm and social commentary, Sedaris can probably best be described as a ’90s version of brilliant humorist Jean Shepherd (who did his own scathing take on the holiday season with the film A Christmas Story).
Sedaris’ essays and stories are at once hilarious, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. His new anthology, Holidays on Ice, collects three previously released stories and essays and offers three brand-new ones; all revolve around Christmas. “SantaLand Diaries,” which originally appeared in “Barrel Fever,” leads off the collection and may be Sedaris’s best-known work. A laugh-out-loud-hysterical look at Sedaris’s experiences working as an elf in SantaLand in Macy’s, the story is a wickedly funny slicing-and-dicing of the holiday season and the good cheer that supposedly accompanies it. His dark humor is exactly what you need when you’re getting sick of all the fuss about Christmas. (Goodreads)
I began listening to Holidays on Ice last year April and didn’t complete it until this past February. I’d often heard of David Sedaris and how funny his books are, but humor isn’t my thing. I don’t gravitate toward books that make me laugh and hardly watch comedies, which is weird because I love to laugh and laugh a lot.
It wasn’t until I heard part of “Santaland Diaries,” one of the stories from the collection in which Sedaris talks about working as an elf at Macy’s, on This American Life (I think, I was listening to NPR that day) that I decided to purchase the book. When I started reading, I realized what I loved most about the story was listening to Sedaris tell it. His performance, tone, and singing made the story much more humorous; so I borrowed the audiobook from the library and kept doing so for the rest of 2018 into 2019.
It’s not that the audiobook or the collection of stories is horrible. They’re not. The stories and Sedaris’s narration of them is amazing, funny, and entertaining. But I took months to complete it because I wasn’t in the mood for it. It wasn’t until Christmastime that the right mood for it hit and I was able continue with the audiobook. This should have been obvious to me, but I was convinced that it shouldn’t matter when I read a particular book.
Of course, Christmas is the theme for all the stories but minus the good cheer. Often the stories focus on disgruntled people who do not have a care for Christmas, but through them, the stories provide biting criticism of the holiday and the antics of people at that time of year. The stories will make you pause, amid laughs, to wonder at the intention of the holiday and what it has become (maybe), but probably not for long as you’re compelled to continue listening to hear what other zany thing Sedaris will talk about to make you burst out laughing.
Because of my long pauses between listening sessions, the details I remember aren’t clear. What I do remember is that I enjoyed listening to the stories, laughed out loud most of the time, and loved Sedaris’s performance. I thought the story by his sister was great too. Here are my favorites:
“SantaLand Diaries” – about Sedaris working as an elf at Macy’s
“Christmas Means Giving” – about the underlying selfishness of selfless gestures around Christmastime
Yea, it took me a long time to read it and I don’t remember much other than that I enjoyed it and consider 2 of the 12 stories favorites, but I think it’s a good read and one best to listen to around Christmastime. It’s darkly comedic and cynical and sure to make you laugh. I enjoyed listening to Sedaris narrate it, and I think listening to the audiobook is the best way to experience the stories.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I intend to listen to it again at Christmastime this year.