Crumpet the Elf and more hilarious stories

The weather continues to be perfect for mulching, and I’m listening to my newest favorite, the “play away,” a pocket-sized book on tape with headphones. I just finished humorist David Sedaris’s book, Holidays on Ice. If you are a romantic Christmas person, full of hope, good will and Christmas candles in the window, this isn’t for you. His fictional stories and personal essays focus on the commercial nature of Christmas, creating an unflattering snapshot of Americans at their consuming worst; however, the first story about his job as an elf at Macy’s during the holidays is really funny.

Most of us have stood in the mall Santa line at one point or another.  I can remember taking C.J. and Ian and dealing with the tears that were inspired by the frightening experience of being a small child expected to sit on a stranger’s lap and talk to him.  Sedaris reveals the dark underside of the mall Santa business.

First broadcast in 1992 on NPR, “SantaLand Diaries” is Sedaris’s recollection of his job being Crumpet the Elf. It has been replayed often in subsequent holiday seasons and has been adapted for theatre. For me, listening to the story may replace A Christmas Carol. I am including a link to Sedaris reading a segment of his essay here.

Holidays on Ice, published in 1998, includes the “SantaLand Diaries” with other stories.  I didn’t like the story, “Christmas Means Giving,” where two families compete to give the most at the holidays; although the one-upmanship of the annual Christmas card frenzy is maybe a little too familiar. Another story that mocks elementary school Christmas pageants is accurate, too—maybe that is why I was uncomfortable listening to a critique of myself.

I’m hooked on Sedaris, though, and plan to branch out to a few of his non-holiday books, including Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: a Modest Bestiary (2011) and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2005).