Anatomy of a Book: Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice by David SedarisI often see people on the streets dressed as objects and handing out leaflets. (p.4 – SantaLand Diaries)

This book is a collection of Sedaris short stories, and in SantaLand Diaries the humour if affective as the smug character is writing from an inferior position to other characters.

While our language flows from our mouths, the Vietnamese language sounds as though it is being forced from the speaker by a series of heavy and merciless blows to the stomach. (p.48 – Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!)

In the piece Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family, a nasty bent is seen as Sedaris uses a seemingly wealthy character to attack a racial stereotype of Vietnamese people.

You people, with your simple, unremarkable lives, know nothing about production schedules or the sky-high salaries demanded by certain so-called entertainers who could give the Arabs themselves a few pointers on terrorism. (p.79 – Based Upon a True Story)

And in Based Upon a True Story, among others, he mocks an array of people and cultures using a character in a higher status than the targets.

It is often argued that for humour to work an intent must be to target those with more power, aka “to shoot up the scale”. This is because belittling the weak is not commonly funny, as it strips power from people who already have a low status, highlighting them as unthreatening and unimportant. Using the mocking approach towards instances of danger or at high status characters works as it is intended to reduce the fear of them, and thereby makes humour from the reduction of fear. Sedaris seems to fail to understand this, which is unfortunate as the language use is otherwise excellent and this confidence of language can succeed in convincing readers that the text is to be admired and accepted.

While it could be argued that he succeeds in mimicking cruel characters, this point of view would be better portrayed in a third person rather than the first person, as a first person perspective persuades the reader to side with the character’s point of view.

For the remainder of this review only SantaLand Diaries will be assessed. It is the most complete work, and the funniest considering the initially inferior status of the character recording their experiences.

Changing Status:

Initially unemployed and mocking of the work done by the employed, the Narrator changes their commitment to employment.

High Stakes:

There is no clear threat in this text as the Narrator does not seem to fear the loss of work once obtained. This helps to maintain the humour.

Page Turner:

There is pleasant text, making for an enjoyable read rather than a suspenseful read.

Believable Characters:

The events fell real, perhaps because of the mundaneness of the tasks and the detail in their descriptions.

Educate:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work as an Elf in a shopping centre at Christmas?

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