Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Naked by David Sedaris

Naked by David Sedaris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this as part of The Ultimate David Sedaris Audio Collection, and a glance at the stories included in the originally tells me this was likely the most abridged in the collection. Nearly half of the stories were left out in order to fit them into the collection, which makes me wonder, why include it at all?

Well, if it hadn't been included, I would've missed out on "Ashes," an essay about his sister's wedding in the mountains of North Carolina while his mother is dying of cancer. He doesn't stoop to heart-wrenching sentimentality; that's not Sedaris's way. And yet, his words stay with me, in ways that both make me chuckle aloud, or send me into a melancholic funk.

I also would've missed out on "Next of Kin," when his find of a smutty book changes how he views his family dynamic, as well as the private lives of all of his neighbors and fellow church attendees. It's more of a wry than laugh-out-loud kind of humor in the essay, but it's quite memorable.

And I also wouldn't have been able to hear "A Plague of Tics," where he discusses the various nervous twitches and rituals he does, until he discovers the relaxing effect of smoking. Suddenly, the short-short essay he wrote, where a woman asks, "Do you mind if we make this a non-smoking bench?" makes a lot more sense, as his tics come back when he's not smoking.

There's also a story called "I Like Guys," about Sedaris's growing up gay in Raleigh, North Carolina, and his first sexual experience at summer camp in Greece. As it is, that's rarely an easy time for adolescents, but he really drives home the awkwardness, the guilt, the pure terror of being found out.

The title track of "Naked" is almost an afterthought, after those gems. I wasn't sure I understood why the body-conscious Sedaris would visit a nudist trailer park (as he calls it), but he certainly picks up some funny observations and interesting insights along the way.

This is not the best set of essays in the collection (that honor would go to Me Talk Pretty One Day), but it's not a waste of time, either. I didn't get any insight into Sedaris, himself, as in earlier works, but I did enjoy his essays, based on my previous reads.

As with the others in this collection, Sedaris reads the audio book, with some roles read by Amy Sedaris. While his voice took some getting used to, his sister Amy is a character actor, and easily drops into several different roles. The experience is much enhanced in their voices.

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