Friday, December 16, 2011

The Worst Noel: Hellish Holiday Tales

   The Worst Noel is a collection of holiday-themed essays that cumulatively assert that Christmastime is the worst time of year.  Authors such as Ann Patchett, Cynthia Kaplan, and Joni Rogers have made contributions to this collection, which makes for quite a mixed bag of hellish holiday experiences.  This book started off really strong for me as I read it aloud to my husband (who also really liked it at first).  There were some funny stories about a Christmas Eve encounter with a deer (Cynthia Kaplan), getting into a car wreck with a mall Santa (Joni Rogers), applying for a job at the mall as Rudy the Reindeer (Louis Bayard), and several tales of silly/embarrassing family holiday traditions.  I enjoyed these, but then the book took a different turn about 50 pages in.  The tone changed from good-humored and lightly sarcastic to depressing, whiny, and offensive.  Apparently most of these authors really dislike the south/southerners (except for Ann Patchett) because it's boring and Nashville didn't have any organic peanut butter (Neal Pollack). Oh goodness! No organic peanut butter?? Well bless your heart...that does sound like the worst Christmas ever!  And by the way, Nashville is my home town. We have organic peanut butter thank you very much!

   Anyway, I guess I just thought I was getting something along the lines of David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice, but unfortunately, I was mistaken.  The majority of the book comes from the perspective of rich white folks complaining about why their holiday experiences were the worst of the worst.  Some of these reasons include: too much food, Christmas carols, Christmas trees, holiday traditions, crappy presents, and Christmas decorations.  I felt like I was missing something.  Even though I agree that retail-style Christmas music is obnoxious and lots of decorations end up looking forced and cheesy, these things are primary characteristics of the holiday season.  I know you're probably upset that I didn't mention baby Jesus and all, but the majority of these authors are actually Jewish (or have Jewish heritage), so the nativity didn't come up that much.  However, there was much whining and carrying on about how Hanukkah is sooooo boring and Christmas presents are better than Hannukah presents, but Christmas is still the worst!! Good grief Charlie Brown!

   After a while, the tone of the book became so overwhelmingly snotty that it was no longer funny or amusing...just irritating.  The first few essays are really hilarious and worth reading, but if you forge ahead with the other 150 pages or so, you may find yourself rolling your eyes at these little brats and getting a little pissed off at the constant whining and self-pitying over things like having to receive presents and eat holiday cookies.  Seriously, who is such a Scrooge that they won't even eat a damn sugar cookie?? Next year, I think I'll return to Holidays on Ice.  David Sedaris never disappoints!