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Rory Book Discussions > HOI - Santaland Diaries (Chapter 1)

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message 1: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Meghan So from last month's discussion, I thought we decided we would do threads by chapter so as not to spoil things for people who haven't read the whole book before the discussions began. This book lends well to that idea as each chapter is its own story.

Anyway, I'll kick start it by just saying, a) I thought this was a hilarious segment (and totally can see how this could be turned into a play, b) think some people need to tie their tubes--you don't have to be parent if you don't really want to be, and c) I wonder if Sedaris had any writing credits to the movie "Elf". Practically every page I was quoting some line from Elf!

For example, (p 13) the Magic Window Elf story. He writes "The Magic Window is located in the adult "Quick Peep" line." This immediately made me think of Santa giving Buddy advice for his trip to NYC, "And if you see a sign that says "Peep Show", that doesn't mean that they're letting you look at the new toys before Christmas."

I don't know, it made me laugh.

message 2: by Robbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments Hopefully, this won't spoil any body's theater experience. When I said the play was extremely faithful, what I meant was it is essentially a monologue of the text. Still enjoyable, especially since I saw it before reading HOI.

message 3: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Meghan Ah, well, I can revise my statement and say, I can totally see this being done verbally.

message 4: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
I too really enjoyed this story. My favorite section was when Sedaris talked about the anagram for Santa is Satan. This was something I could completely see myself doing for entertainment. You could use the play on Satan in so many ways. Look what I got from Satan this year. You better be good this year or Satan won't bring you any toys. Ok, it's time to sit on Satan's lap. You could go on forever and it would always be funny.

message 5: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Meghan During the brief interview I was asked why I wanted to work for UPS and I answered that I wanted to work for UPS because I like the brown uniforms.

Gives whole new meaning to: What does brown do for you?

message 6: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
THIS IS MY FAVORITE CHAPTER, for sure!! I couldn't stop laughing at EVERYTHING. I was on a plane and was regularly laughing with sudden, loud bursts at the more intensely funny moments. At the very first he points out how in laughing out loud in a coffee shop he was looked at as if he was a lunatic... Hello! That made me laugh harder - and that was the second paragraph!!! (And by the way, you get way weirder looks on a plane than in a coffee shop - trust me.)

The add for the job alone put me into hysterics! "Macy's Herald Square,the largest store in the world, has big opportunities for outgoing, fun-loving people of all shapes and sizes who want more than just a holiday job! Working as an elf in Macy's SantaLand means being at the center of the excitement...." Sorry, but as someone on the dole, if I'd read that in my job hunt I'd seriously have lost it! SOOOOOO dang funny.

Okay. I'll breath and then write more of what I loved about this short story later. Give someone else a shot. Besides, I could write about it all day. It KILLS me!

message 7: by Jen Manning (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Jen Manning | 34 comments I did enjoy SantaLand Diaries. I loved how he dealt with the snotty kid who kept throwing a nickle at him. He gave it back twice and then gave it to anothher kid ;) Little misbehaving brats drive me crazy and it was so smooth the way he passed the point where I would have exploded. Granted little misbehaving brats are usually spawned by parents who don't have enough time to disclipline (teach, train, show NOT punishment). Parents run around haggard giving kids money and multiple lessons (scouts, choir, piano, soccer, etc) instead of time. ANYHOW, off the soapbox. Jumping on another one, my husband and I were at the mall prior to the stores opening last Sunday and there were lines of people waiting at the entrances to get in line for Santa, some were pushing tiny babies. I agree with the sentiment that largely seeing santa is a ritual that parents force on their children in the effort to have another picture. OKAY, that is about as sarcastic as I allow myself to get.
P.S. I know that all parents are not like this; so please don't take offense if it does not apply!

message 8: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) As I was reading this story (this was my favorite, but just by an inch), I couldn't help but think of pretty much all my experiences standing in line to see Santa with my little sister. I was older and wouldn't sit on his lap or anything, so I would just crowd-watch.

There were all those parents who had to dress their kids up in their finest and make a huge production of cataloging every single moment of their kids' lives. There were the days when the "special" kids would come, which was always interesting to watch. There was always the kid who was way too old to be visiting Santa, but took it really seriously anyway. There were always more than enough pains in the a** messing with the decorations or trying to pull Santa's beard.

He just captured so many human quirks in one story with the perfect background. What better place to put every single type of person than in a mall waiting to see Santa?

If only he'd put some Jewish people standing outside and talking loudly about how Christmas is not the only holiday (I've seen it), it would've been perfect.

message 9: by Emily (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Emily | 60 comments As someone who got her first job out of school in New York, I found the beginning hysterical when he's looking for a job. His references to soaps...LOL!!

I also loved the references to Satanland...made me think of Dante's Inferno! (Dante's been a favorite of mine since the 10th grade when our teacher gave us the assignment of writing our own version of the Inferno:)

message 10: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) You had to do that assignment, too, Emily? We had to invent our own rings of Hell, complete with types of sinners and punishments.

I think my final ring was for all the worst sinners (Hitler, Saddam Hussein, etc.) and involved clowns because clowns are scary, scary things... :)

message 11: by Emily (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Emily | 60 comments Michelle,
We had to create our own rings of Hell also. Sounds like you went much deeper with the assignment than I did. My worst sinner was my high school marching band director:) Not sure if I could get away with turning that in for an assignment today though!

message 12: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Okay seriously, Michelle, I laughed out loud at your clown comments! To equate them with Hitler - priceless.

I just have to say that after reading this story I wanted to hunt down Sedaris, have the little bugger stretched about a foot, and marry the bloke - be damned his sexual preference! I thought I'd found the match to my wit and humor!

But then I read the next story. His humor got a little dark for me. Still love him, but I'll let him stay his diminutive height and maybe just date him now and then. LOL

It was odd, though, to read SantaLand Diaries and see the similarities to my writing in style and subject.

message 13: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) If this was everyone's favorite story in the collection, then I'm in trouble. I thought the story was just kind of okay. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind, or maybe it's because I've worked with the public for 15 years, or maybe I just agree with Brian's description of Sedaris' writing. But I was not particularly amused or surprised by any of the anecdotes. Reading some of his one-liners, I could just picture Sedaris at his typewriter or computer, writing a line like, "It won't be quite as sad as standing on a street corner dressed as a French fry" and grinning to himself because he feels oh-so clever. Like Ralphie writing his theme paper.

I did, however, really enjoy the part about the oldest Santa making every child feel special and loved. I thought it was very sweet. But I got the feeling that Sedaris was mocking the old Santa.

message 14: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
"It is sad because you would like to believe that everyone is unique and then they disapoint you everytime by being exactly the same, asking you for the same things, reciting the exact same lines as though they had been handed a script."

This was pretty cute, but not my favorite (that would be Dinah the Christmas Whore).

I felt like this was Mr. Sedaris's personal indictement against mankind. According to him, we all think we're so unique, but under the same circumstances, we will act the same, predictable way. People can be racist, greedy, dis-engaged from their children (but believe themselves to be totally engaged), selfish, and act embarassingly stupid. Stories like this are entertaining, and generally showcase some witty, talented writers, but I have to say that as a nurse for 13 years, I have seen people at their best and worst in much more stressful and life-defining situations than waiting in long lines for Santa, and I believe that people can also be brave, extremely good-willed and friendly, kind, and very, very unique in their responses to stress.

Cute story, but no enlightening revelations regarding human nature to me.

message 15: by Janet (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Janet Mitchell | 19 comments Santaland Dairies is my favorite by far. Dinah, The Christmas Whore is second, though.
I loved the part where the parent wanted her child to be good and asked Sedaris to tell him he would get coal. Instead Sedaris told him Santa would start to steal important things from his house. I could not stop laughing. I am teacher and parents always we me to parent their child. Makes me very tempted to follow his lead. It also reminded me of a part from Me Talk Pretty One Day where Sedaris goes to pick up his cat from the airport and the airline rep said, "oh that cat, that cat is dead....Naw just kidding." Sedaris became mad for a moment and then stated that if someone would have been stupid enough to give him a job at the airport he would have done the same thing.

message 16: by Janet (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Janet Mitchell | 19 comments Stupid bolding. I always do it wrong. Thanks for letting me know that I can edit my posts. I know it was there. It just didn't even cross my mind. I'm Christmas crazy!!

message 17: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Janet, the slash goes BEFORE the last B. /b

And Alsion: Hey now.

message 18: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
O.K. Sarah, I deleted that last comment b/c in retrospect it sounded mean. It was late.

message 19: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Oh, I knew you were teasing. No worries. ;)

message 20: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Janet, you can edit your posts!

Anyway, I'm with you in enjoying this and the kid side. As for the rest, why does it have to be some be statement or it's no good? I mean, I saw it as looking at the quirks encountered in a unique situation and finding the humor of it. He has an acerbic humor at times, but whether he said those things or just WISHED he could like the rest of us, they were classic!

I love to look at the oddities and human faux pas and even tragedies in life and just point out their innate humor... not mock or put-down, but just appreciate the humor that is already there but just needed to be dusted off. That's how I write. Maybe Sedaris takes that next step in SantaLand to poke and prod the humor a bit, but I still loved it.

message 21: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
Sarah - I can of agree with you on the whole Sedaris thing. I feel like I can write pretty well, when I work on it and I felt like I could have put that story together without too much effort.
No I don't think I could have been Santa's helper, but feel like anyone who waited in line for 2 hours for Santa Claus could have come up with the same observations. And yes.... if this is Sedaris at his best I'm wondering how good the rest of his writing is. I have yet to finish all the stories from the collection.

message 22: by Arielle (new)

Arielle | 120 comments I Liked it! I must be really really sappy, because my fave part was the oldest Santa. He sounded so sweet!

message 23: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I'm right there with you, Arielle. That part really was very sweet.

I also really liked the part with Snowball, the Flirtatious Elf... "It made me dizzy, this flirtation." That line if way funnier if you think he is straight. But this is the best: "Snowball just leads elves on. Elves and Santas. He is playing a dangerous game." (This is one of the places I BURST out laughing on the plane. Did I mention that I was sitting between two tall, handsome men?)

This section of the book (SantaLand Diaries) is all marked up in pencil. It peeters out - not because it quit being funny but because I got tired of underlining something or writing a comment in nearly every paragraph.

Like the girl that spoke entirely in questions? And this is a job interview? Or that he actually told the guy at UPS he wanted to work there for the uniforms! (OMG, LOVED that one!) Then later saying, "My costume is green. I wear green velvet knickers, a yellow turtleneck, a forest-green velvet smock, and a perky stocking cap decorated with spangles. This is my work uniform." Too classic!

Oh! How about this: "Sallie Mae sounds like a naive and barefoot hillbilly girl but in fact they are a ruthless and aggressive conglomeration of bullies located in a tall brick building somewhere in Kansas. I picture it to be the tallest building in that state and I have decided that they hire their employees straight out of prison. It scares me." Tell me you didn't laugh!

Or selling the "idea" of a picture. Or "The Elfin Guide." Or "YOU ARE NOT SANTA'S SLAVE." And this is great: "It was a large group of retarded people and after watching them for a few minutes I could not begin to guess where the retarded people ended and the regular New Yorkers began. Everyone looks retarded once you set your mind to it."

Also, I loved what he did about Phil Collins. That just killed me that he told everyone where Phil would be exiting and then when the managers came looking for the big mouth, he said "Phil Collins, who's he?" I'm laughing right now thinking of it!

message 24: by Beth (new)

Beth | 173 comments The theater in our town staged a late-night production of "The Santaland Diaries" last Christmas. It was kind of funny to see the response it got. The guy who starred in it is an amazing actor, and the house was packed (a small venue, but nonetheless). My husband and I were screaming with laughter, but so many people were visibly offended by the material! It was really strange to me.
Also, I've heard that Sedaris got his big break by reading "Santaland" on NPR. I didn't hear it aired originally, but I have to wonder if he toned it down a good bit?

message 25: by Beth (new)

Beth | 173 comments And, on a personal note, I had a Christmas job once wrapping gifts at a large department store. It was absolutely horrifying. I can totally relate to Sedaris' experience as a Christmas elf. People would go to excruciating lengths to make sure their Christmas experience was absolutely perfect. I remember one lady who brought a sampling of her Christmas ornaments to the gift counter so we could wrap all of her presents in matching paper......good times!

message 26: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Tone it down? On NPR? Not likely!

So funny about your job, Beth!

message 27: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I am so glad that I was a part of this discussion. It has been really eye-opening to me.

I don't think I realized that people tried to make Christmas that perfect. It really wasn't like that at my house. My mom didn't have that obsessive thing going on. Much more relaxed.

All in all, taken for what they were, and what they were meant to be, these stories were all pretty funny. Some were better than others, but as a whole...pretty cute. I enjoyed them.

message 28: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) When I was a kid I used to make fun of my mom because all the wrapping paper had to match. For a while it was either plain white paper with a red bow or plain red paper with a white bow. Then she started buying several rolls of her favorite paper and we were only allowed to use that. When relatives sent us gifts in other paper they either got rewrapped or put in the very back.

Now, I kind of get it. *blush*

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