Worst Noel: Hellish Holiday Tales (HarperAudio, 2005, 6 hours on 5 CDs)
It’s all in the delivery.
this compilation’s 18 essays, read aloud by their authors, the one that
made me laugh out loud was Marian Keyes’ “We Really Must Get Together
This Year,” read by Katrina Keyes, and it was all because of that Irish
accent saying “whoever th’ hell ya are” about Christmas card addressees.
one that made me snort-laugh was “Buy Humbug,” by Cintra Wilson, again
because of the gusto with which she reads it.
Runner-up was “Donner is Dead,” where Cynthia Kaplan recounts the time
she and her small family hit a deer while driving their tiny Honda
through snowy Vermont.
is less the content of these tales – though that helps – than the
richness with which their writers relate them.
Others sound tedious – maybe they were better on the printed page – and
too many hinge on the awkwardness of being a Jew who does, or doesn’t,
celebrate Christmas. A potentially humorous topic, that, but not so many
times in one Noel collection.
best ones are the funny ones, unless you simply feel like wallowing in
Eeyore-land for a while. Binnie Kirshenbaum’s tale of a bad breakup in
front of the Christmas tree is very good, but not at all funny or zingy.
Joni Rodgers’ verbal re-enactment of the time she comforted a wounded
(car-struck) Santa in the street is more disturbing and sad than
anything else. Of course, the book is called “Hellish Holiday Tales” …
but the sad-sack tree pictured on the cover looks funny-hellish rather
than sinister-hellish, so you might be excused for expecting mirth,
which is also foreshadowed in titles like “I’ll Have Christmas with the
Works on Rye, Hold the Ham and Jesus,” and “Rum Balls.”
However, approximately zero of the humorous or quirky essay compilations
ever made are 100 percent satisfying; there’s always a stretch or two of
boredom, always some disappointment (possibly in different paces for
different readers). If you’ve learned this and you are OK with getting
three really good essays and a few
might-as-well-have-listened-to-this-as-anything-else essays out of an
11-essay collection, well, then, enjoy.