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Q&A: Dave Barry, Giver of Gifts


Dave Barry talks about his new book in a chat with NPR's Neal Conan and offers a preview of his annual gift-giving guide.

Conan: Your book is set in 1960 in the New York suburb of Asquont. You grew up in the suburb of Armonk, N.Y. Total coincidence.

Barry: And every year I actually was in a pageant at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Armonk, N.Y., and this book is set at St. John's Episcopal Church in Asquont, N.Y. So really there's no connection at all. And ... there's a young man who is the narrator and is the same age I was back then.

Conan: And this is a book about things that happen on Christmas Eve... It's going to be a stocking stuffer, don't you think?

Barry: It could stuff a stocking, yeah.

Conan: And Christmas pageants play a large part in this new book. I was fascinated by your experience as one of the three kings.

Barry: Yeah, I was in a pageant at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church every year, and the woman who ran the pageant, the director, had actually been in the legitimate theater in New York City and was a very dramatic person who took the theater very seriously and wanted it to be a really first-class, Broadway-style pageant production.

In one year, the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh were all played by this woman's antique -- well, she had boxes and vases she would bring in - and one year we dropped the vase just as it was time to go on, because one of the kids in the pageant had stuck a rubber cigar in his mouth just to, you know, make the rest of us amused.

Anyway, and so we dropped the vase. And it... smashed into a million pieces, and so that was kind of loud and we were laughing pretty hard. And then we had to grab Rev. Morris' Rolodex, and that's what we out to give the Baby Jesus, a Rolodex. Well, we gave him gold, frankincense, and a Rolodex.

Conan: The Betsy Wetsy baby Jesus.

Barry: Well, Jesus was a Betsy Wetsy doll, but you couldn't tell from the audience.

Neal Conan: So what's on your Christmas guide? Give us a couple of hints.

Dave Barry: Okay, I'm going to give you a couple of good ones we got this year. I have to stress, all of these are real items. You can actually purchase these items. Why you would purchase them, I don't know, but they are for sale. One of them is the Marie Antoinette ejector head doll.

Conan: Does it have one of those rings at the back so you can pull it and she says, 'Let them eat cake?'

Barry: No, it doesn't. It doesn't speak. It's just the head shoots off. And we also have -- my favorite and I've got to say by far the most expensive gift guide item we've ever featured -- it's called a Cruzin Cooler. And it's a cooler, like a beer cooler that, for reasons I don't understand -- it happened in California -- they modified it and put a motor in it and wheels on it so you can drive down the street in this... on a cooler, basically.

Conan: Ah-ha.

Dave Barry: I've got to tell you one other item because I really love it. It's a woodpecker repeller item. If you are afflicted by woodpeckers --and who isn't, really? -- this thing, when it hears the pecking of the woodpecker... on your house... a spider drops down. And the woodpecker is apparently terrified and flies away, because apparently woodpeckers are so stupid that they believe spiders eat them. They're not the brightest bird, possibly because they're just always hammering wood with their heads all day. I don't think I'd be that bright if I did that either.

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