Wishing you a merry, slightly dysfunctional and oftentimes silly Christmas.
In his second book, Greenwood (English/Tufts Univ.; Homo Domesticus: Notes From a Same-Sex Marriage, 2007, etc.) presents 12 holiday- and childhood-themed autobiographical essays that cover such universally shared memories as disappointing gifts, Christmas-tree decorating wars and the joy of still believing in Santa Claus. The author’s holiday memories are dominated by his Grammy, a charismatic ball of energy who wants nothing more than for her family to experience the perfect Christmas. Unfortunately for the author and his irrepressible brother Ignacio, Grammy’s idea of perfection includes unwanted tube socks, unwearable winter gear and inedible fruitcakes. Sound familiar? Today, anyone writing humorous true-to-life holiday essays will inevitably be compared to David Sedaris and Jean Shepherd—which isn’t unfair, as Sedaris’s “Santaland Diaries” and Shepherd’s A Christmas Story are the paragons of Christmas confessionals—but here the comparison is particularly apt. Like Sedaris, Greenwood is a gentle soul who isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself, and, also like Sedaris, he lovingly mines his eccentric family for material. Like Shepherd, his prose and delivery are simple and self-effacing, and he comes off as an engaging character. While all of this makes for a pleasant enough read, Greenwood just doesn’t display the chops or gravitas of Sedaris or Shepherd.
Plenty of nice material cheerfully presented but lacking in originality and resonance.