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Rory Book Discussions > HOI - Season's Greetings (Chapter 2)

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message 1: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Not. Funny.

message 2: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I was just flipping through this to see if I had underlined anything that stood out to me as fodder for discussion and...nope. Haha. Why do we think Sedaris wrote this racist, (is racist the correct term when you're attacking someone from another country?), mean-spirited, humor-so dark-it's-black piece? Is this everyone's least favorite? Or am I just being a bad sport?

message 3: by Emily (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Emily | 60 comments Throughout the story I kept asking my self "what's his point?". ITA that it wasn't funny, and I'm not sure why he wrote this bigoted story. The satire here just didn't work for me.

message 4: by Michelle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Michelle (literarilyspeaking1) What I think he was doing is showing how far some people will go to make everything appear normal. Even though this woman's life is completely up in the air because of all these circumstances, she's trying to write this letter to gloss over it all and pretend that it's not bothering her. Kind of like most people do in the real world.

It's like, when you walk down the street and meet someone you haven't seen for awhile and they ask how you are, they don't REALLY want to know how you are. They just want you to say "Fine" or something so they can feel as if they're engaged in your life.

I do have to admit, though, that I laughed when she came out of the blue and revealed the daughter. Not sure why.

But, I was feeling physically sick when she was describing the baby's death. Ick.

And, the satire is definitely much darker than we're probably all used to. It's like Jonathan Swift instructing parents to eat their babies during the Irish famine in "A Modest Proposal." Disgusting, disturbing, but also some of the most jarring ways to call attention to things some people pass by.

message 5: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Michelle, I absolutely thought of "A Modest Proposal." In fact I was just coming here to post that, but you beat me to it! ;)

message 6: by Robbie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Robbie Bashore | 592 comments I remember this chapter being one of the reasons I only gave this book 3 stars. Lots of people have written parodies of the "annual Christmas letter," but they're not usually this dark.

During some of the less--is offensive too strong of a word?--parts, this chapter reminds me a bit of Betty Bower's stuff.

When I met my husband, he was already in the habit of sending yearly updates to his family and friends at Christmas, so we've been doing it as a couple. I usually try to be honest about joys and trials, but I'm sure plenty of people mock our letters. I'm the sappy type who loves getting the letters, and I actually feel cheated when I only get a card with a signature on it.

message 7: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Meghan Now see, I loved Santaland Diaries. I didn't find him to be smug at all. Probably because I've been in jobs where I've sat with coworkers and mocked patrons mercilessly, so it just felt "real".

This story, however, not only was just terribly written and lacked any imagination whatsoever, I totally got the sense that he was trying to be uber-witty and smug about it at the same time.

Living as an American in China I joined a yahoo group for ex-patriots to get the skinny on the local life and where to shop, what to avoid, etc. I have been exceedingly disappointed and well, frankly shocked, by the continual racist remarks by non-Asians who unwittly and unknowingly make them. As an asian myself, maybe I'm more sensitive to such remarks, but as a mother now, I am disheartened by them.

I am NOT easily offended. I like the Simpsons, South Park, the Family Guy, and Robot Chicken. If you can skewer something, I'm usually front in line to watch. But it has to be done, well, funnily and ultimately with a little heart.

You could see what Sedaris WANTED to go with it (it was like a neon sign in space) but he failed so miserable with each page that by the end you were not even remotely surprised or shocked or emotionally involved that the baby died. It was like watching Fox news only worse.

To me, Sedaris excels when he writes about his life. When he writes using his "imagination" I found him to be more than lacking.

message 8: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I totally agree about Sedaris excelling when writing about his own life vs. fiction. I'm on one of his other "fiction" chapters and am so bored I can hardly keep reading.

I was just wondering where this chapter was first published. I mean, can you imagine? All of them were first published as short-stories, and those are usually in magazines. How about if you picked up, oh I don't know, Vogue say, and read that??! Yikes!

I did get his humor in this, and it is very black humor indeed - which is not at all my thing - but I understood it and where and why it was supposed to be funny. The major point of it was to offend, you know. When you take something to an extreme like that as an author, you are trying to magnify to the extreme the follies and ills of society to draw attention to them so that people might wake-up to the "lesser" ways they offend. Instead of screaming your point on how wrong they are in their face and making them mad and hardening them further into their position, you try to shock them into see how absurd and wrong they are being by using the guise of humor. As I said before, I get it but it is NOT my thing.

Oh, and yes I do a yearly letter, too. But I don't use THAT many exclamation points! Yikes! I think that annoyed me most of all - but of course because I do use multiples for effect at times, he hit his mark with me!!!

message 9: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) That was the only part of the story I found funny!!!! Because I know some people who write like that!!!!!!! Every email or myspace bulletin has a zillion exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!! No one is THAT perky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

message 10: by Janet (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

Janet Mitchell | 19 comments I agree with many of you. The Christmas Letter was too dark. It seemed like he was trying to be mean instead of funny. I find a great deal of things very funny, but a baby dying in a washing machine is not one of them. Parts of the letter are great, but the ending is too cruel. I feel like if he had used his family as the model as opposed to a fictional family it would have been so much better. I understand why Sedaris has never written a fictional novel.

message 11: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
My opinion - meh. I got that he was making fun of the holiday letter writers out there - and that I understand. I'm 28 so I don't receive a lot of holiday letters, but I have read some of the ones my mom gets and they are hideous and go on FOREVER. Much are just brag fests on how brilliant their children are. Maybe it doesn't help that some people send these holiday letters out to everyone they've ever met in their entire lives. Sure it's great to send out holiday cards to everyone you've ever met, but too include a detailed what's happened in my life for the last year to everyone is another thing. Nobody cares that much and yeah you will get mocked (at least in my household)
One that I remember is from one of my mom's acquaintances (my brother and her son were friends in grade school) - the year she went through her divorce she sent out a long letter detailing all the sordid details. It was very pathetic and while I empathize with the fact she is going through a difficult time, is that something everyone should know about?

You could probably make a funny story about holiday letters by making them a little more reality based - because a lot of them are funny.Ok, I've said my peace.

message 12: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Hmm. I may try to write one (funny story, not a real one). After the semester is over, of course. If I do, I'll put it in my "writings" page. But don't hold me to it! This year I'm not even working full time and it seems to be busier than most recent Christmases.

message 13: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
All of my family write them - aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, brother, second cousins, great aunts & uncles, etc. Loads of my friends do, too. I love getting them. A mate from my first college - 20 years ago - and I exchange them and that's how we keep up.

I'm like Robbie, when I just get a card with a signature I feel a little cheated. One year I just couldn't do it time-wise... with 23 units in college, an art show, my brother getting cancer... so I wrote a personal note to everyone I sent a card to.

In your house I most certainly would be made fun of, Shannon, but I don't mind. I send them to friends, family, family friends, distant friends, people I haven't talked to in years. These people still hold an important place in my heart, so I want to include them this little bit in my life. I love hearing back from them, whether though email or holiday letters as well, because even if I can't see them they are valued by me. If they don't feel the same, they don't have to read it... or can make fun like you!

I will concede that some can be a little... goofy. My one (odd) aunt last year listed the movies they'd seen. Huh? But for the most part, I have pretty good communicators in my family.

I'm not sure what age has to do with sending them, as I've received them since I was quite young, but I guess if it's an old-person's thing, I'm ancient!

Sarah, your explanation point... point was very funny!

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

Meghan Well considering this book was published in 1997, a lot of the ideas in this book is well, dated. I find it interesting that the Jon Stewart book I read was also published the same year (must have been a big deal in the publishing world these humorous essay books). And what I found was that timely humor is funny but only during that time. It doesn't age well.

I think partly why I found this essay so bad was that this idea (this suburban mom who thinks she has it all and likes to brag about having it all ends up losing it all...and the reader is left to ponder did she really have the ideal life) has been done so many times. How many movies can we name that has a similar theme. I mean even that Christina Applegate tv show is along this line.

I love black humor but he doesn't execute it well at all. I didn't giggle once and actually found myself re-reading several paragraphs because my eyes were glazing over.

Personally, I found this to be the worst written one. There's another one I found to be the dullest.

message 15: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Is the dullest, by chance, the pitching-to-the-church one? Because It's taking DAYS to get through that! I have to keep re-reading, I'm so bored!

message 16: by Shannon, the founder of fun (back from sabbatical) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:17PM) (new)

Shannon | 254 comments Mod
Michele - it's probably not an age thing - I thought I would use that to explain why I don't get any holiday letters, but it's probably because I don't have any friends or Christmas spirit - lol!!!!!!!!! (like my exclamation points here........?)

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

Sarah (songgirl7) Michele, that was the dullest for me too. Yawn.

message 18: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:17PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Santa Cleopatra, I FINALLY finished this bloody book! After the first chapter I thought it was going to be a blast to read... BOY WAS I WRONG!!!

Shannon, you totally made me laugh! Maybe none of your friends like to write... that's a better thought than no Christmas spirit!

I just started A Christmas Carol finally and have to begrudgingly say I'm really enjoying it!

message 19: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:17PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
A Christmas Carol rocks! To read and compare Dickens & David Sedaris was a really, really cruel thing to do (to Mr. Sedaris).

message 20: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:18PM) (new)

Meghan Actually I was just thinking how this was actually a very good combination. I like how one is about the uplifting of the human spirit and the other one is about how the world has gone cynical and materialistic.

Hey wait, are we allowed to discuss ACC yet though? Probably not here either. Sorry.

message 21: by Arielle (new)

Arielle | 120 comments OK. I had all kinds of high hopes after Santaland Diaries. But...ich. I'll admit, at some points (that I can't even remember now because they were so fleeting) I may have cracked a smile, but for the most part I was just waiting to see where he was going, and I was not pleased with where it went. I get the whole trying to shock and offend thing, but personally, I think some things should not be on the "okay to mock" list, i.e., crack babies, dying babies, children who grow up fatherless (can you tell I'm a mommy?).
Oh, and I am totally one of those people who uses multiple exclamation marks! Can't help it, it just seems to happen that way.
I've sent out one Christmas letter (last year) and it was actually really funny and satirical, and I thought pretty cute. The only downside is that nothing really noteworthy happened this year(except we had a baby, but how do you really stretch that into a whole page without gory details?), so how do I follow it? Hmm, what a pickle that I will deal with after I somehow cleanse my brain of this distressing chapter of the book...

message 22: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Stirrat | 201 comments Hmmm . . . I had an entirely different reaction to this story. I listen to this book on cd faithfully every Christmas because I am so relieved to hear someone point out the utter ridiculousness of so much of people's behavior at Christmas. I must admit that I have a rather polemic response to it. So, if you might be offended by the notion that people behave monstrously and obnoxiously at Christmas, please feel free to skip my response.

People attempting to make everything absolutely perfect and precious, while completely ignoring that their lives are falling apart. And Christmas letters are, to me, the most obnoxious part of this. Perhaps there is a miracle, alternative universe where these letters do not come off as fake-happy, bragging articles whose sole purpose is to illustrate that the author is happier, more successful, and more together than you. Generally, however, said authors are less-ridiculous versions of Jocelyn who will stand in line for days to find the right present, but cannot be bothered to be kind or generous of spirit to anyone who cannot benefit them in some way. Almost as if they are trying to "find" the Dickensian (or is it Dickensonian?) Christmas spirit and if they cannot find it, fake it so that everyone they know thinks they have found it. Jocelyn (gosh, I hope this is her name, I left my book at home!)is merely a magnification and caricature of the evil thing that happens to people when they choose to fabricate this ridiculous farce.

I didn't find the story to be mean or racist, although Jocelyn, the character, is certainly racist. I found it hilarious and true and an excellent illustration of ridiculousness -- trying to bank on the Christmas spirit to guilt people into testifying on her behalf, while, behaving like a martyr, wanting everyone to know that she was not going to let these "tragedies" ruin her annual holiday display.

I think perhaps the racism of Jocelyn is a big part of the point of the story. As much as she holds herself out to be a paragon of Christmas virtue, she cannot even, for one moment, accept her step-daughter into her house or find some way to accommodate her. There are such racist people out there and certainly there is even more intolerance generally brewing -- one merely needs to change the "characteristic" of Khe Sahn to something else to find the bigotry of someone he or she knows. By magnifying it to the point of ridiculousness, he was illustrating it in a way that people could generally understand. I far prefer his kind of mockery and openess to the everyday life of quiet bigotry.

As for the baby in the washing machine, well, the point was that the woman was insane, having dreams about hand puppets, and wanted a truly heinous crime to pin on her step-daughter. I'm not sure it was supposed to be funny as much as a comment on how far this woman would go to have her illusion of normalcy and happiness returned. The morbid details were just meant to illustrate how nuts she actually was.

I appreciate someone not making Christmas and the family too precious and showing the kinds of insanity it breeds. Yes, it is an extreme, satirical story, but it contains a lot of truth and a lot of humor.

message 23: by Meghan (new)

Meghan Courtney, I think I can see where you're coming from. I saw that Holiday On Ice (the books on tape version) was read by David but also his sister Amy and some other lady. I think tone is essential to his writing and if someone spoke these words in the manner he was intending, I think it would come across a lot funnier. I mean, if we all read the script to an SNL skit (during the good years)...would we have the same reactions than when we saw them performed? If he writes for tv then I think a lot of his writing is meant to be said aloud than thought in your brain. heh that sounds funny.

message 24: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Dec 14, 2007 07:46PM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
Courtney, are you by chance a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl? LOL That what I was thinking when I read the second paragraph.

Because I choose to see the best in people does not mean I don't recognize the negative aspects of their character. In the same way, I don't find it repulsive to focus on the positives in society, especially for a very short season of the year. To that end, I see the Christmas letters as a way to share both the joys and sorrows of your year with friends and family with whom it's hard to keep in regular contact. I don't see them as trying to sound better than everyone or as attempting to demonstrate how great their life is by sharing with me.

I'm sure there are people out there with those motivations. Maybe I just know good-hearted people! LOL Or maybe it's all in your outlook when reading. More likely it's a little of all of that.

Okay... I do have one Aunt who is definitely not just a "keep-up-with-the-Jones'-type," but is trying to BE a Jones. So her letter I might read with clouded eyes and a suspicious heart. But I also know she has true goodness in her and a real sense of giving, even if it is not always unconditional. I credit her for those things and look for the best in her even when she's driving me mad (I'm not exactly what one would call a "success" by most standards.) She really does have a good heart.

See. I'm probably too optimistic. But better that and see good in the world and be able to truly experience joy than the alternative!

message 25: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Stirrat | 201 comments Lol, you know, I am a glass half-full kinda girl, but I have a terribly wingnut extended family and more than my share of "Christmas Baggage." I almost included a sentence saying, "maybe you have a normal family, but I don't, so here is where I am coming from."

Which is why I think Sedaris plays better with some and not with others. There is a certain kind of neurosis that you really have to experience before you can think it is funny.

message 26: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (last edited Dec 15, 2007 11:58AM) (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
"There is a certain kind of neurosis that you really have to experience before you can think it is funny. "

CLASSIC. But you know, fairly accurate... relatability is key. That's why I get "SantaLand Diaries" so well. I'm just the type that would subject myself to that brand of torture for the stories I'd get out of it... I mean every day I'd have something hysterical and/or horrific to retell!

You definitely have me appreciating some of these stories more. I think so much of it can be frame of mind and expectation. I mean after the first story I was looking for more side-busting humor, but the others were a whole other brand and I didn't have the mindset. Although Based Upon a True Story was just plain boring.

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