Chosen by Drew Gummerson
David Sedaris’s ‘Santaland Diaries’ is every writer’s dream. Before it appeared on National Public Radio in 1992 Sedaris was relatively unknown, hanging out in IHOP every night, doing dead end jobs. ‘Santaland Diaries’ was his first big break. It became (almost) their most requested show and Sedaris’s distinctive voice was launched on the world.
I am a thirty-three year old man applying for a job as an elf.
Sedaris touched me not only because of his apparent failure in life – I’d worked in a factory putting cream eggs in boxes, on a production line for junk mail, folding and inserting tissues into little plastic bags to be given away free, quality checking Damart clothing (does each item have the correct number of sequins? In the right place?) – but also because he was gay and funny. I’d grown up during the time of Section 28. Gay literature was either hidden or, when it was available, ALL the characters would get AIDS and die.
The overall cutest elf is a fella from Queens called Ritchie. His elf name is Snowball… Yesterday Snowball and I worked as Santa elves and I got excited when he started saying things like ‘I’d follow you to Santa’s house any day Crumpet.’”
Here was a gay man talking about fancying other men. It was political and not. And that what I’ve always tried to be in my writing. Change the world by being yourself. And, hopefully, making people laugh at the same time.
Years later I wrote my own Christmas elf, department store, Santa story. It has yet to make me famous but writing ‘Troy and Me’ I felt a little of Sedaris in me. And that made me happy.
First read on NPR’s Morning Edition on December 23, 1992. Collected in Barrel Fever, Little, Brown, 1994, and Holidays on Ice, Little, Brown, 1997. You can hear the author read it here. * Drew Gummerson is the writer of The Lodger, Me and Mickie James and Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel. His work has appeared on BBC R4. He is a Lambda Award finalist, winner of the Leicestershire Short Story Prize.