Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #35: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

I’d been meaning to read this for a few years now and I finally made the (mostly) wise choice to bring it with me for my family’s tradition of Black Friday Shopping. The original edition in paperback was slim enough to fit in my purse and made for easy and appropriate reading while waiting on insanely long lines in Walmart. The only thing that would’ve made it better was if I actually liked the book.

Doing some research online, I found out that I’m very much in the minority with this opinion. This book is apparently “beloved” and a “holiday classic.” Normally, I like Sedaris’ work quite a bit so I was shocked with how much I couldn’t get into or find any kind of humor in most of this book. The most popular piece in this collection of essays is called “The Santaland Diaries” and that was the one I found to be hit or miss entertaining. The way he deals with working as an elf at one of the most hectic times of year in one of the busiest stores in the country is darkly fun. For instance, realizing that “Santa” is an anagram for “Satan”:

“Don’t forget to thank Satan for the Baby Alive he gave you last year”

“I love Satan.”

“Who doesn’t? Everyone loves Satan.”

Another good section is when he deals with people who say they’re gong to have him fired:

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.”

His observations about the absurdity of the way people wait in crazy long lines to force their children to sit on a stranger’s lap, how they act towards the elves and Santas and their own children, are revelatory, acidic, and spot on from my limited experience.

However, the rest of the book? I just didn’t get it. I understand hyperbole, which I’m guessing is the point behind “Based Upon a True Story” and “Christmas Means Giving,” but I didn’t so much get dark humor from these as…completely depressing. “Dinah, the Christmas Whore” and “Front Row Center With Thaddeus Bristol” were…just kinda blah to me. With the latter, though, it was an interesting take on what would happen if a kid’s Christmas pageant was subjected to a real, scathing critical review. But I just…couldn’t connect to it.

Perhaps the most bizarre and unsettling to me was “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!” The condescending and horrific nature of the narrator was difficult to get through but the way it ended…I just don’t get it.

It’s likely this is geared towards a different demographic or something. I’m not sure. I just wasn’t much of a fan of this particularly book.

Marya’s #CBR5 Review #1: Untied by Meredith Baxter

Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering
Meredith Baxter

I read this autobiography for work (long story), and the good news is that I was able to blow through it in about 48 hours. The name Meredith Baxter did not ring a bell for me, nor did I recognize the attractive older blonde woman on the cover, although her sassy blonde mom-hair and super white, super straight teeth reminded me of Katie Couric.

As it turns out, Meredith Baxter is, among other things, the mom from Family Ties. I guess I am about 3 years too young to be the target demo for this memoir, because I don’t remember much about that show except that Michael J. Fox was a Republican.

The book is…not embarrassing. But there is nothing in it to recommend it. Baxter had a rough childhood, a series of bad relationships (one abusive), five children, and a long and varied TV career during which she worked with a number of very famous people, then got sober AND came out as a lesbian. That sounds exciting, right?!

Nope. You would think all of that could make for a juicy memoir, but Baxter only has nice, bland things to say about her coworkers, and her analysis of her relationships with family, spouses and children feels like just that – analysis.  She takes responsibility for her bad decisions and tries to forgive and understand those who did her wrong. The entire book reads like an epic AA meeting.

I’m glad Baxter is happy and healthy these days. It seems like this book was probably therapeutic for her, and bully for her for getting someone to pay her to write it. But as a work of literature, it’s a waste of wood pulp.

Rating: If you are on vacation and it’s pouring rain, and this is the only book in the hotel lending library, this is not too painful to read. (Additional 10 points off the final score  because the subtitle reminds me of my freshman English papers. Something like “Heroines in the works of Charles Dickens: Piety, Poverty, and Perseverance.”)