Well, Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris, was NOT what I was looking for. If you’ll remember, my assignment was to read some really good memoir as guidance for myself to figure out the best way to improve my own work. Holidays On Ice was listed under Good Reads as memoir, but when reading it, it definitely didn’t seem like memoir. It was a collection of short stories, only one or two of which could have remotely happened to David Sedaris. I do like David’s storytelling. He has a solid cadence and very strong vocabulary. But this little collection was particularly dark. I chose it because of its reference to the holidays. I thought it would usher in the mood of the season, but instead, it was a little off putting to me in parts. I don’t want to give it all away, but one of the short stories that I liked the most was about his experience working as a Christmas elf at a large New York department store. I liked his over the top approach to describing the dysfunction of “capturing the moment” obsessed parents who are so busy trying to get the perfect snap shot of their child with Santa that they don’t even let the kid enjoy meeting the fake St. Nick. He also did a great job describing his interaction with co-workers, and the inner workings of a commercial Santafest. But other stories in this little book were downright disturbing. I think Sedaris was trying to juxtapose the dark underbelly of our culture with the syrupy feeling many of us wish the holidays could be. I made the mistake of hoping this book would juxtapose humor and the holidays, but Sedaris took the humor into darkness, and that was crossing the line for me. Maybe if I didn’t have children, I would feel differently. My dear friend, Katie, from high school said that she was turned off by Sedaris’ whiney side. I didn’t understand what she meant until reading this little book. As I read, I felt Sedaris was trying to be sarcastic, ironic, and funny, but each time he took it well beyond what most people would expect. Maybe that’s his appeal. In some ways, his writing reminded me of the improv classes I’ve been taking over the last year. In improv, we’re asked to be sensational, to take every emotion and response to the extreme. If we’re going to pretend to be a fire fighter, we must pretend to be the firefighter that just saved 100 people single-handedly from a 20 story burning building. Sedaris employs this tactic in his writing. He’s not just a Christmas elf, he’s the darkest, strangest, most misunderstood elf the store has ever employed. I would not recommend this book to any mother of young kids because of two specific plotlines in two separate stories that involved death of small children. NOT what I was expecting from a book with Holidays in the title. It will be very interesting to hear what the rest of my book club thinks next week, since they’re all mothers of children 6 and under. Annually in January our book club votes for the best and worst book we’ve read of the year. I’m guessing I will be getting a prize for the least liked book. Will keep you posted. What did I learn for my own writing? Don’t be afraid to really let it rip. People like to read about things that could, but will NEVER, happen to them. Don’t be afraid to point out the absurdity in every day life, and holding back will get me no where. I’m going to reread my work and focus on incorporating more of the real gusto, the true color, that hasn’t yet made it through my perfectionist filter.
I’ve just begun reading the next memoir on my list, An American Childhood by Annie Dillard. This one centers on a young girl growing up in the fantasia that was the 50’s. I’ve heard great things about this author and am looking forward to it. So far the beginning reads more like fiction, with elaborate descriptive pros. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Lorraine Wilde