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Festivus    by Allen Salkin order for
by Allen Salkin
Order:  USA  Can
Hachette Audio, 2006 (2006)
Softcover, CD

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

What exactly is Festivus? Did it really originate from a Seinfeld episode? How does one celebrate? Is Festivus just a fad? These are some of the questions that Allen Salkin attempts to answer in his book on the subject.

The contemporary holiday of Festivus actually has its roots as far back as Ancient Rome where the Latin festivus meant any type of festive activity. Over the centuries, the word has sprung up again and again to describe holiday revelry. The brand of Festivus we know today came from the father of one of the Seinfeld writers, who started the holiday to celebrate an anniversary with his wife. In need of a joke for a Seinfeld episode, the writer took the many ways they celebrated Festivus from his childhood and arranged them into what is now considered the informal guidelines for the holiday that Jerry Stiller's character, Frank Costanza, proudly proclaimed was 'a festivus for the rest of us.'

The tenets for Festivus - as laid out on Seinfeld - were a metal poll as the only decoration (Frank preferred aluminum), the airing of grievances, and feats of strength that usually involve wrestling the head of the house. However, as Festivus is a holiday that is anti-conformity, celebrators are encouraged to adapt these guidelines for their own purposes or even do away with them altogether - including celebrating Festivus any time of year. Since Festivus came to the masses through the 1997 episode, it is still too early to tell if it will endure the test of time, though Salkin seems to think there is plenty to keep it going.

The Festivus audiobook stands out in its cunning use of incidental music (not just the little tune that tells it's time to change discs). Sections are underscored with music that help set a light and humorous mood, which is added to by the announcer reading chapter titles. One thing missing from the audiobook that was in the hardcover, though, is the Festivus recipes. However, Salkin informs us in his narration that, as it would be boring to hear a recipe, the producers have kindly put them on disc, which the listener can pop into a computer. All in all, Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us is a light and fun listen, though not laugh-out-loud funny, as I was kind of hoping it would be.

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