Tag: humor

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A stylized image of David Sedaris, American humorist and author of "Holidays on Ice". The original photo was taken by Harald Krichel.

Looking A Gift Book In The Mouth: On David Sedaris’s “Holidays On Ice”

Books are the best gifts, of course; however, the giving of a book can be a fraught experience if the recipient is not necessarily a devout reader. Yet there are times when gifts are also a sign of appreciation, a requirement in the social contract. In our times now, certain considerations must be made, and presenting a host with a gift card or a half-vinegar bottle of wine do not make the strong statement of being the most appreciative of the guests, the best guest, discrete but intimate. Books are quite intimate, as any reader who is a real reader knows, and giving a beloved book to a beloved friend is apple-pie-easy. Sometimes, though, the gift must be made to someone not so loved, maybe, someone who endlessly offends sensitivities, laughs loudly while others cringe—then David Sedaris is for you.

The required gift is usually associated with two holidays—the birthdays of friends and Christmas. Regardless of whatever spiritual beliefs a body might have, gifts are expected at Christmas. Fret ye not, good gentlemen, David Sedaris’s Holidays on Ice (1997) will serve you well as the gift book for people you aren’t sure you like. Although Sedaris is enough of a darling of New York City that multiple reviews are hidden behind the New York Times paywall, a review by Alexandra Bowman in DC Theater Arts (Nov. 2022) poses a conundrum—Sedaris as both “someone who writes for highbrow literati and presents himself as one” as well as being someone who presents “commentary on cultural issues [that] left a bitter taste in my mouth”. She further states that “some of the most memorable stories Sedaris told on stage framed women or people of color as the individuals we’re supposed to laugh at.” While some people might hold the view that this is punching down, and certainly cultural shifts effect what is comedic acceptability, Sedaris revealed that his goal is not particularly the social change sought by pure comedians such as Carlin, but motivated by “members of a secret society founded on self-loathing” (Naked, 85). Caustic authors are no surprise to experienced readers, and Sedaris’s pattern of trochaic language gives the impression of simple declarative sentencing. […]