ABR’s #CBR5 Review #25: Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris

holidays-iceI typically have trouble ramping up the holiday spirit so this year when I had the decorations up and the shopping done I thought I’d read something to help. I mistakenly chose David Sedaris’ Holidays On Ice. I’ve had the book on my book shelf for many years. I’m familiar with the “SantaLand Diaries,” the story that leads the book, and I would consider myself a David Sedaris fan, but Holidays On Ice was not the book I needed.

I would highly recommend the first essay, “SantaLand Diaries,” in which Sedaris details his experience as a Macy’s elf named Crumpet. In a twisted way, it just might put you in the holiday spirit. At least you’ll be able to laugh at some of the more stressful moments, like waiting in line to see a Santa that terrifies the kids and shopping amongst the masses. It’s funny, sad, pathetic, revealing and unfortunately, honest.

Although I would recommend the book on the strength of “SantaLand Diaries” alone, I also enjoyed “Dinah, the Christmas Whore,” which recounts a Christmas when the Sedaris family rescued a prostitute from her abusive boyfriend and invited her into their home for the holiday.

But do yourself a favor and skip “Season’s Greetings To Our Friends and Family,” the Dunbar family Christmas letter, which goes from sad to awful to sickening, and “Christmas Means Giving” in which two neighbors go to grotesque lengths to outdo each other during the holiday season. Yes, I understand they are sarcastic, but I thought they were just too creepy and outlandish to be funny.

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.

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #81: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris



Clearly a popular choice for us Cannonballers, this is the 7th review of Sedaris’s latest collection so far this year. My review can be found here and comes with a bonus comedy dedication from the man himself. Check it out.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #76: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

sedarisIt’s been a couple of years since I read my last Sedaris, so I was about due. I picked up his latest book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls from the library as an audiobook. It was a good decision. (As a point of interest, one of the essays does have owls in it, but nowhere, at least that I could find, does it contain the word ‘diabetes.’ The title is somewhat of a mystery to me.) I’ve also never read a Sedaris by audiobook, and it was delightful. He’s a scamp, Sedaris is, and he doesn’t fail to entertain.

Highlights include: European dental care, Sedaris’s hilarious (and weirdly understandable) obsession with picking up litter along the English countryside where he owns a home, multiple stories with Pater Sedaris walking around in nothing but his underwear, some wonderful anecdotes about his always amusing family, the story of his first colonoscopy, and the titular essay, in which Sedaris struggles to find a stuffed owl to give to his long-suffering partner, Hugh.

This wasn’t my favorite Sedaris, however, for a couple of reasons. There were a couple of essays that made me feel weird. I can’t remember the first one, but there was this story with baby turtles that made me sick to my stomach (it was well-written, I just couldn’t handle what happened). The other reason is that there were several shorter essays at the back of the book that Sedaris wrote specifically to be read aloud by others. He did this when he learned that children have been reading his stories aloud in competitions and wanted to be helpful. I think this is a funny idea, but the problem with it is that I didn’t actually care for any of the stories. I much prefer his non-fiction, I think.

Alisonrt25′s #CBR5 Review #4: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris


If you have never read any David Sedaris I urge you to go out and get a copy of Naked or Me Talk Pretty One Day immediately. Better yet, get the audio versions, as that’s how I consumed his most recent book of stories and essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Listening to the audio version, read by David Sedaris himself, adds even more humor to his already funny writing. This particular book featured some true stories and a few fiction. I personally have never liked his fiction as much as the true accounts of his family, his friends and his everyday life. He has a knack for taking something as mundane as standing in line at the airport and spinning it into a hilarious story about how judgmental we all are as human beings.

This book, though not my favorite of his (mainly due to the fiction pieces at the end), did not disappoint. My favorite stories were “Dentists Without Borders” and “The Happy Place.” The first discussing his obsession with going to the dentist, particularly his French dentist. The second, a hilarious account of his first colonoscopy after being urged by his father to get one for years and finally giving in after his sister tells him how much she enjoyed her own. Seriously, it’s not to be missed. The title track is also fantastic, going from purchasing a gift for his partner, to how people collect things, to a bit of information about taxidermy you never thought you wanted to know in one story.

I can’t plug David Sedaris enough as an author and a performer so I’ll end by saying, read him, listen to him, and go watch him speak. You won’t be disappointed.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #59: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

2I think this book is going to have to be one of the most reviewed on the Cannonball this year, so I had to make sure it made my list too. I have always found David Sedaris to be an interesting writer.  Though I do understand why certain readers find him frustrating (“But nothing happens in these stories ARRRRGGGGHHHH”), to me, his writing style has always been so engaging that I really don’t care what he’s writing about.  Case in point here would be his first essay on his experiences with French dentistry.  To me, a Sedaris novel feels like a conversation with a friend that you see often – you really don’t have anything particularly interesting to say to one another, but pleasure is found in the conversation itself.

I must admit that this collection of stories does feel more like a throwaway than previous collections – there weren’t any stories here that completely stopped me in my tracks.  That said, I did still read this compulsively and did enjoy it.

I agree with many of the other reviewers that this is probably not the best Sedaris book to start with for a new reader – I would suggest Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – but definitely worth a read for everyone else.

Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #38: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

Diabetes With OwlsI’ve read most of David Sedaris’s books and enjoyed them, so it was a no-brainer to pick up his latest, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, Essays, Etc. (2013) as soon as I could get my hands on it. The “etc.” part of the title consists of six, short fictional stories. But for the most part, this book is very similar to his previous ones, with original and humorous stories about his life. If you liked his previous books, you should like this one as well.

It’s been awhile since I last read Sedaris, so I’m not sure if it’s just this book, but I seem to be able to appreciate his writing more now. I especially noticed his descriptions and unique ways of coming at his stories. Sedaris doesn’t start an essay about his first colonoscopy with arriving at the doctor’s office. Instead it begins at a dinner party in Amsterdam, and then jumps to a discussion of his relationship with his father before he finally settles in to his topic. This somewhat meandering style is very entertaining and still easy to follow. Most of the stories in this book stem from Sedaris’s talent in finding the absurd humor in our everyday lives, much of it self-deprecating and refreshingly honest–although (I’ve heard) perhaps exaggerated.

Click here for more.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #44: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris


If my teacher had chosen any other essay from Me Talk Pretty One Day, chances are the name David Sedaris means nothing to me today. He had to go and pick “Big Boy” to read to us as one of his sample essays. Better known, to me, as the sole essay worth reading from the book in question. Length must’ve factored heavily into his decision, which is to say I can’t recall one shorter. I remember it seeming a great deal longer read aloud. Reading it myself, it didn’t even reach the length of your average pop song. Still, it was enough inspiration to keep me plugging away until I reached the end, nineteen supremely forgettable essays later. Were I given the ability to time travel, I dare say that removing “Big Boy” from the book altogether would make my to-do list. One way or another, it would cut back on wasted time. In one scenario, my teacher’s alternate choice tells me what it took me four books figure out, that Sedaris’ style of humor just doesn’t do it for me, resulting in me no longer feeling compelled to buy When You Are Engulfed in Flames, thus never moving on to his other books. In the second scenario, I still dumbly plop down the cash for that fluke of his, as well as continue on to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Barrel Fever, but can no longer make it the whole way through Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Maybe the glimmer of promise his essays all seem to contain would still have carried me through till the end. With my penchant for giving people more chances than I rightly should, I won’t argue it’s not a possibility. At worst, though, Me Talk Pretty One Day would, I hope, be Sedaris’ last chance in this alternate timeline, as that’s precisely what it is in this timeline. I’ve flipped through other books of his to get a grip on how universal this inability to make me laugh was, and I’ve found it’s pretty damn universal. His career, to me, is Me Talk Pretty One Day on a grander scale. Each essay, just about, has that aforementioned “glimmer of promise” (ex. “When shit brings you down, just say ‘fuck it’, and eat yourself some motherfucking candy.”), and occasionally it becomes more than that, Sedaris turning out something strong enough to give you false hope (ex. “Big Boy,” When You Are Engulfed in Flames), yet there’s only disappointment to be had in the long run. And I am fed up with feeling disappointed when I realize I should know better by now. So, unless he does something drastic to earn my forgiveness, I’m retiring Sedaris from my reading list, and not even my completionist’s streak will change that.

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.

Kira’s #CBR5 Review #19: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris

diabetesowlsIf you’re a big fan of David Sedaris—like you want to crawl inside his brain and/or get stuck with him on a broken elevator or malfunctioning roller coaster (what? He’d have great commentary)—then take this piece of advice: Don’t read The New Yorker.

Sedaris released a new book of essays this month, the bizarrely named Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, which I bought with all the speed and joy of a stoner hitting up Taco Bell for his or her first Ranch Dorito Taco. And although LEDWO is chock full of traditionally hilarious Sedaris observations—on everything from the restroom situation in China to the litter situation in rural England—I found myself suffering from a prolonged sense of déjà vu. Indeed, the majority of the essays featured in Sedaris’ latest contribution to the bookshelf have been published before, most of them in the New Yorker.

Now, I’ve got nothing against authors double-pubbing their essays—Nick Hornby has an entire series of books based on his “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column in The Believer—but it does take some of the joy out of acquiring a new collection from one of your favorite writers. Sedaris in particular covers subjects so mundane on their face that one can’t help but remember his past contributions to the essay genre—never have I thought to myself “Now, who wrote that piece about the predatory habits of Normandy house spiders again?” Continue reading

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #25: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris


When wondering what word you’ll find underlined next becomes your last remaining motivation for reading further, and when that scavenger hunt ending makes the fifty or so pages left a daunting, undesirable task, little else needs to be said to clarify your stance on said book.

Given my recent history with Neil Gaiman, I’m no stranger to ups and downs, but what we have here is considerably more drastic. My 11th grade English teacher’s reading of selected stories from Me Talk Pretty One Day had me and the rest of my class laughing in elongated unison from start to finish. When You Are Engulfed in Flames, while not living quite up to those standards, still displayed a man to whom the art of humor seemed second-nature.

With these last two books, however, I’ve gotten the opposite impression, that he has a humorous anecdote or two, as we all do, but not enough to make a career out of. Many would vehemently disagree with such an assertion; however, that’s the nature of comedy, which is why I cannot in good conscience advise you avoid this one.

Even if your tastes line up with mine, in that you laughed all the way throughMe Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames and were only convinced to trudge through the entirety of Barrel Fever through a sense of misplaced devotion, this could go so far as to supplant the first two in your eyes as it has for numerous others.

Because, to be blunt and honest, outside of wishing some of the essays hadn’t been cut short just as they appeared to be going somewhere worthwhile, I have but one complaint, and that’s that, for a book intended to humor you, I foundDress Your Family in Corduroy in Denim light on laughs.

Oh, for an essay or two, I saw snatches of the Sedaris I once knew, or at least thought I did, but they fast became lost in my memory amid the slew of other ones that, chances are, I wouldn’t have bothered with if not for my interest in discerning the meaning behind the words the previous reader had chosen to underline, and in compiling a list of said words so I could make it into a sort of project, writing a story in which I must use each of them.

Put more succinctly, though all writing is subjective, that’s more true of humor than anything else, to the extent that my own sense of humor isn’t even internally consistent itself, meaning that your only option is to read this book and see for yourself whether you like it or not.

Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.