Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read an abridged version of this as part of The Ultimate David Sedaris Audio Collection. It wasn't why I took the collection out of the library, but I thought it couldn't hurt to listen to the whole thing, all the way through.

It took me a while to adjust to Sedaris as a narrator. He has a deadpan delivery that, at first, sounds flat and bored. I was several vignettes in before I caught on to his comedic timing. The inclusion of several live tracks, with the audience laughing in all the right places, helped. A lot of the humor is quite dark, and I kept feeling guilty for laughing where I did.

Once I got past that, though, I enjoyed this collection of humorous essays very much. I don't think I'll ever be able to keep track of all of his sisters' names, no matter how many of his stories I listen to, but it's just as amusing to think of them as interchangeable. At least to me.

My favorite in this collection is "Repeat After Me," where he visits a sister who owns a parrot, mourns for the creature's being reduced to mocking the noise the blender makes, and has some self-reflection about being a character in the stories he tells. The ending is surprisingly touching, and I teared up more each time I listened to it. (I ended up listening to it three times.)

"Nuit of the Living Dead," where Sedaris gives directions to some lost European tourists and likely makes them think they've narrowly escaped a serial killer, is also amusing, and the theme is repeated in "Chicken in the Henhouse," where walking a young boy to his hotel room makes him feel needlessly guilty, because of the assumption gay men will do bad things to children.

Sedaris is gay, and he has OCD, both of which are sprinkled into the narrative. Anyone expecting him to treat either of these facets as a shameful fact to hide don't know David Sedaris very well. "Full House," the fourth story in the collection, discusses his discomfort at a sleepover party, and how he turns the other boys' trust to his young self's advantage. He knows who he is, and he presents that openly to the reader. The humor in this collection is frequently the self-deprecating kind. If you're the type who squirms at others' discomfort, this collection may unsettle you, because Sedaris puts some rather cringe-worthy stories out there for your consideration.

I'm glad I picked up this collection, though I do wonder what I'm missing in my abridged version of the book. I may have to pick up a full audio at some point up the line.

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