Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Barrel Fever and Other Stories by David Sedaris

Barrel Fever and Other Stories
Barrel Fever and Other Stories by David Sedaris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a curious choice, making this the last part of The Ultimate David Sedaris Audio Collection, considering it was his first publication. It felt a bit like going backwards in quality. While I had the explanation for a number of these stories, they weren't as funny nor as sharply honed as his later essays.

The vast majority of Barrel Fever and Other Stories is fictional tales, mostly about really stupid people. The title story, "Barrel Fever" is about a hateful alcoholic whose mother dies and his best friend joins AA. He spends the majority of the story railing about the pointlessness of AA and sneering at those who want to live without booze, until he finds in his mother's New Years Resolutions a promise to "be good."

"The Last You'll Hear from Me" sticks in my mind pretty well, too. It's a suicide note, penned by a deeply manipulative young woman who exhorts her funeral attendees to stone her enemies with memorial paperweights.

"Glen's Homophobia Newsletter Vol. 3, No. 2," meanwhile, is also written as an address to a specific audience, this time arguing against homophobia that may simply be reactions to the fact that Glen is a jerk. I was uncomfortable with the "asking for it" subtext in that one, though.

The nonfiction stories were an improvement, though most seemed more of a series of vignettes than an entire narrative. "Giantess," about his submitting to a porn fetish magazine, was the most tightly constructed of these. Though, I have to admit, "Diary of a Smoker" had some great one-liners.

If you've read everything else by David Sedaris, it certainly couldn't hurt to pick this up, but I don't think it's the best part of the collection. After Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Me Talk Pretty One Day, this felt like something of a consolation prize.

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