Like her other titles, Laurie Notaro's An Idiot Girl's Christmas
is a bon bon of a book--one that is so honestly observed that, if you are at work, you will find yourself sneaking in time to read it at your desk in the middle of the day, snorting with laughter. There are few writers who can nail the particular humiliation of, say, buying a box of tampons in a crowded store while a small cadre of punks makes unfortunate jokes behind you. Or who can let loose the funny fury of wrong-headed Christmas gifts, such as her mother's peculiar affinity for food-scented candles:
Always on my list is a scrumptious delicacy from my mother's favorite Wax Candle Baked Goods store. I don't know where my mother found a wax store that specializes in baked-goods and pastry candles, but she did. Good job Mom!
It's the perfect diet food, because biting into one is like biting into Jennifer Lopez's double-decker ass at Madam Tussaud's, kind of like sinking your teeth into a thick, dense bar of Irish Spring--without the flavor.
With some new and some best-of material (the venerable Jingle Bell piece about a Barney-obsessed neighbor is here), this volume covers many a family holiday at the Notaro household, with an amusing assortment of ill-adjusted siblings, in-laws, and that grand dame of dysfunction and buzz kill, Notaro's mother. Or at least the ever-so-lightly fictionalized version of Notaro's mother, who plays the foil to Notaro's perpetually underfunded, tortured, and sweetly Machiavellian self. The palpable and universal mother-daughter tension in their relationship is best mined in the chapter, "Oh Holy Night," or "The Year I Ruined Christmas," in which the n'er do well's daughter purse is lost, found, and returned home with a tire track across it and without Notaro herself:
"I was dead?" I asked my mother eagerly, trying hard to fight the urge to jump up and down in glee. "Oh my God. I can't believe it. This is fantastic. Did you cry?"
"Well, almost," my mother confessed. "But then again there was the relief of getting the second use out of your prom dress."
In the end, wit and clever revenge on dull party guests trump the rich, thin, and conventionally pretty girls every time. Notaro's Idiot Girl's Christmas is a holiday worth celebrating. --Megan Halverson
From Publishers Weekly
Humorist Notaro (Autobiography of a Fat Bride; We Thought You'd be Prettier) takes on the standard fare of holiday horrors in this slim volume of essays, rejuvenating well-worn territory with gonzo humor and a few touches of sentiment. Notaro proffers up an ironic gift list ("Of course, I would enjoy more than anything getting some really cheap bath crystals, so I could use them when I take a shower since I don't have a bathtub") and skewers the horrors of December shopping ("a woman who had gone to high school with Mary Todd Lincoln moved up to the counter"), but also recounts some peculiar, Notaro family-specific stories, like the year the author (sort of) died and was resurrected on Christmas Eve, or the year the family ate raisin-resembling maggots with Christmas dinner. Understated emotion (tempered with sarcasm) is Notaro's secret strength, whether remembering her late grandfather's Christmas Eve walks, or taking her Nana shopping: "She's like a toddler but one who won't respond to the store PA system calling her name unless the speaker is approximately two inches from her left, good ear." Fans of David Sedaris's Holidays on Ice will find this worth a look.
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