My first experience with David Sedaris was unimpressive, largely because I was not reading David Sedaris’ work but rather a compendium of his favorite short stories. I was finally able to get Dress Your Family from the library and I can now say that I enjoyed it very much.
The book focuses on Sedaris’ family life, a collection of short essays or stories compiled semichronologically and illustrating very roughly the wacky hijinx of his childhood, his turbulent middle years, and his surviving relationships with his sometimes-estranged siblings. Sedaris isn’t laugh-out-loud funny in the vein of Dave Barry, but he has a very quiet, charming wit about him that seems almost appropriate once he paints himself as something of a queer stereotype.
What I enjoy most is Sedaris ability to create the literal story (remember, funny and charming) and then introduce some other peripheral anecdote or even literal object that ties the story to some larger metaphor about life, love, or happiness. It’s the sort of technique that Chuck Palahniuk likes to use, except for the “life, love, and happiness” part, and Sedaris manages to use it so subtley that I’m impressed when I catch on to such subtext.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim isn’t going to top my chart of favorite books, but it is good enough that I will start looking for some other stuff by Sedaris, and that’s no small compliment.