The stories in this book have all been previously published, so if you're a fan of the author, they won't be new to you. I don't usually seek out "humor" books, since many of them seem to take the business of being funny way too seriously. So I've been seeing references to Sedaris for years, but never read any of his stuff. My loss. If these stories are typical, he's both funny and thoughtful, which is a nice combination.
The opening story "SantaLand Diaries" is the story that put this author on the map when it was read on NPR. It's the sort of "autobiographical fiction" (i.e. based on his life, but exaggerated for comic effect) that Sedaris does so beautifully. It's a classic.
Sedaris admits to some exaggeration, so maybe writing stories about holidays is a natural fit for his talents. Americans take their celebrations very seriously indeed, with the result that observing behavior during holidays is even more entertaining than observing behavior the rest of the time. Holidays bring out the crazy in all of us. Ask any cop or ER nurse or Mall Santa. Even normal people go whack-o.
I loved the Christmas letters that spiral out of control. I howled at the critiques of children's holiday productions. Naturally, your own offspring (or grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc) are charming, talented, and delightful, but who the hell thought we'd want to watch those other boring brats?
But my favorites were "Dinah the Christmas Whore" and "Let It Snow" because of the glimpses into the strange family that shaped this author's twisted outlook on life. His family may have been "Southern by the Grace of Greyhound" but they fit right in. Anyone who grew up in a dysfunctional family will recognize the characters and situations. Those of you who grew up in normal families don't know what you missed.
I think most of these stories are ones I would enjoy re-reading and the collection is a great introduction to this author's writing. After all, this is a man who's been called "one of the funniest writers alive." By The Economist. And if people who write about the economy don't know great humor when they see, I can't imagine who does.
A satirical brazenness that holds up next to Twain and Nathaneal West (New YORKER)
*A collection of personal essays - surprising, disarming, heartbreakingly funny - from the #1 bestselling writer Time named America's Favorite Humorist.