David Sedaris is perhaps the most celebrated humorist writing in America today. All the praise --- the comparisons to Mark Twain, for example --- is well deserved, leaving little for the reviewer to do but acknowledge that Sedaris is one extremely funny guy. DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM may not be quite as good as the hugely popular ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY, but it's awfully close --- and at its best, it is positively laugh-out-loud hysterical.
Like ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY, DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM is made up of essays (all of which have appeared in various periodicals, including Esquire, GQ and The New Yorker), many of them involving the various members of Sedaris's quirky, dysfunctional family. And also, like ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY, the new collection eschews the one thing for which Sedaris might be criticized: his fiction. While his short stories, such as those that appear in addition to the essays in BARREL FEVER and HOLIDAYS ON ICE, are often quite humorous, they tend to suffer in comparison to his personal accounts of his various adventures as a child, a housecleaner, or an apartment hunter in Europe.
With all of that being said, the book's funniest essay, "Six to Eight Black Men," is only tangentially about Sedaris, dealing instead with Christmas traditions in the Netherlands. The writing absolutely sparkles, easily surpassing the author's more famous holiday offering, "Santaland Diaries," in terms of laugh inducement. Other highlights include "Blood Work," in which our hero attempts to clean the earth's hottest apartment for the earth's oddest man; "Possession," in which he falls in love with the apartment of one of Amsterdam's more famous former residents; and "Repeat After Me," in which he faces off with a parrot and faces the uncomfortable realities of mining his family members' lives for material.
Though always funny, portions of Sedaris's material may be off-putting to some readers. Masturbation, adolescent strip poker and a feces-eating dog are all part of the mix, as is the author's foul-mouthed brother Pete, a.k.a. "The Rooster." Sedaris, however, seldom uses such material for a cheap laugh, as even at its most shocking, his writing is all of a piece, elucidating a crazy world with a sharp wit he wields as skillfully as a surgeon's scalpel.
Reviewed by Rob Cline (Rob__Cline@hotmail.com) on May 31, 2004
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim