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164 Reviews
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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great collection
I first saw David Sedaris on a late night talk show and thought the story he read was hilarious. It was an excerpt from "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and the next day I went to the library and got it. I read through it in a day, laughing out loud for the better part of the book. I bought "Barrel Fever" and began to read. I must say that I thought the book...
Published on July 28, 2001

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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars David Sedaris: The Early Years
Barrel Fever

It's probably best to read Barrel Fever AFTER you have read all of Sedaris' other works. As other 3-star reviewers note, Sedaris' more recent collections are far funnier and better crafted and stylized. If you pick up Barrel Fever and have not read Me Talk Pretty One Day, you may get the false impression that Sedaris is a so-so writer whose is...
Published on October 7, 2006 by ninjasuperstar


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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great collection, July 28, 2001
By A Customer
I first saw David Sedaris on a late night talk show and thought the story he read was hilarious. It was an excerpt from "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and the next day I went to the library and got it. I read through it in a day, laughing out loud for the better part of the book. I bought "Barrel Fever" and began to read. I must say that I thought the book was extremely funny, but not as funny as "Me Talk...". Not because Sedaris did a bad job, but because I have a preference for essays while the majority of this book is short stories. That being said, it is still a great book. Its probably not for those that don't have a dark or twisted sense of humor. If your idea of hilarity is "Family Circus" then you probably won't enjoy the book. However, if you like witty and humorous stories about alcoholics and dysfunctional families, you will like this. I showed one of my favorite parts to a friend and she replied that I have "one sick sense of humor" but she was laughing right along with me. And so if that description could apply to you, I highly recommend this book.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars David Sedaris: The Early Years, October 7, 2006
Barrel Fever

It's probably best to read Barrel Fever AFTER you have read all of Sedaris' other works. As other 3-star reviewers note, Sedaris' more recent collections are far funnier and better crafted and stylized. If you pick up Barrel Fever and have not read Me Talk Pretty One Day, you may get the false impression that Sedaris is a so-so writer whose is variably funny and witty. I prefer to look at Barrel Fever as an early photograph of what Sedaris would eventually fully develop and polish.

Many of the stories/essays in this collection are too short to give more than a cursory glance at their subjects. When you finally get to the last work, SantaLand Diaries, you feel like Sedaris has finally reached you as a reader, and you (hopefully) will forgive the previous missteps and awkward experiments in style. Barrel Fever has plenty of funny moments, but it is simply not nearly as mature as Sedaris' later books.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hysterical, May 6, 2000
This is one of the funniest books I've ever read. The best part is the essay "Santaland Diaries," about Sedaris' experience as an elf at Macy's. I read it out loud to my mother in the car and we couldn't stop laughing. The short stories are excellent too, especially "The Last You'll Hear from Me." If you like this, you should also read "Naked," Sedaris' memoir; it's even better.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, July 12, 2000
By A Customer
I once saw a very ordinary, unassuming,seemingly meek fellow appear as a guest on David Letterman. I stopped to listen to this mild-mannered gentleman for a few minutes only to find myself laughing harder and louder than I can remember in recent history. I predict I will own a copy of every book this man ever writes. In this troubled world, we all need to laugh as much as we need to eat, and Sedaris provides a banquet. He is truly gifted beyond words.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Same David Sedaris I know & love..., March 2, 2001
By 
John Ronald (Sugar Land, Texas) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I am amazed at other reviews here that SLAM this collection of stories but praise his others...some reviewers complain about the mixing of fiction with non-fiction essays, etc.
I can only read such reviews in disbelief and ask myself "are we reading the same author here?"; To me, this is vintage David Sedaris...he's just as darkly funny here as he is in _Me Talk Pretty One Day_, his latest work, which I've also read. I just finished the abridged Audio version of _BARREL FEVER_ and found it just as enjoyable as his other works...all new material I'd never heard before, etc.
I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would object to the mingling of fiction & non-fiction here...David's autobiographical non-fiction is so completely weird and surreal it might as well be fiction...one hardly notices the difference.
David Sedaris is not for the faint hearted. He IS funny, but he is also gritty, brutally realistic, sardonic and unsentimental. Only his sister Amy, who now has her own bizzare show on Comedy Central (_Strangers with Candy_) is probably more "out there" than David. I love their collaborative work on these audiobook versions of his stories...including her contributions on this audiobook,_Barrel Fever_.
Sedaris' delivery is so deadpan and straightforward that you begin to believe even the most outrageous of his fictional stories MUST have autobiographical sources...of course people will stare at you if you're listening to this audiobook on a portable walkman and suddenly laugh out loud. The point is, those people would STILL stare at you if they actually HEAR what you are laughing AT. That's Sedaris' genius, in an nutshell.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a twisted character!, August 26, 2002
I had to give this a 5 star review because Sedaris makes me laugh out loud. Everyone will think you're a nut while you're reading this because you will be unable to stifle your snickers. His character is so twisted that I can't believe he's talking about himself! I refuse to swallow that those stories are even half-way true. Not all of the stories are funny but there are plenty of laughs in this book. I'll read anything he wants to write!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great intro to a talented writer, April 30, 2001
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I admit that I first read Naked and Me Talk Pretty before I picked up this collection of Sedaris' early stories and essays. Since Naked and Me Talk Pretty were written in the first person like a warped memoir from Sedaris' life, and were at times more designed to create laughter than to savage human nature, it took a few chapters for me to adapt to Sedaris taking on the voice of various crackpots and losers rather than himself.
Sedaris' stuff that is displayed in Barrel Fever takes a sharper aim at the shallowness, self-importance and bitterness contained in his characters than Naked and Me Talk Pretty, but the sidesplitting humor in his later works only rears its head from time to time in Barrel Fever, most notably during the near-legendary "SantaLand Diaries" story.
Sedaris is a talented writer who lets his characters grind an axe or two now and then.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uneven but Good, June 25, 2002
Within a few pages of this David Sedaris book, I was seething with rage. "This is about as funny as a car wreck," I said to myself. Although I hate to start a book and never finish reading it, I tossed this one aside in disgust, vowing never to return to its poisoned pages. Well, I did pick it up a few days later and I am glad that I did. The problem was the first few stories. The humor in the first three or four stories is juvenile and just plain dumb. It is the style of humor one finds in our middle schools. Once you get past those clunkers, the following stories and essays crackle with humor and dark emotion.
My favorite stories were his holiday stories, namely "Season's Greetings," and "The SantaLand Diaries (this story is why I originally wanted to buy the book)." I don't think I really need to go into the SantaLand story since it popular enough that most people have heard of it or read it. As someone who did the retail thing, I recognize many customers and personality types in this story. I am surprised more people haven't mentioned "Season's Greetings." This story is an absolute scream. It is written in the form of a Christmas card-type letter written by Jocelyn Dunbar. Poor, poor Jocelyn. Her family is sorry to announce the arrival of Khe Sahn (!), a Vietnamese strumpet who turns up on the Dunbar doorstep. Khe Sahn is the illegitimate daughter of Clifford, Jocelyn's husband, conceived during his tenure in Vietnam. I don't want to ruin the whole story for you, but I will say the way that the story is written adds greatly to the humor. The breezy, forced joviality of the letter just killed me.
Other stories in this collection are just as entertaining, although much darker and thoughtful. "After Malison" tells the story of an arrogant literary jerk and an encounter with her favorite post-modern writer. "Don's Story" reveals the vacuous nature of Hollywood. "Jamboree" is a depressing story about an unwanted child and his jerk parents. All of the stories will arouse some type of emotion in you, whether it is rage, happiness, or tears depends on the type of person you are.
Sedaris does have insightful perception on various aspects of society and when he is writing at top form, he shines. My advice on reading this book: expect good stories, but expect to read awhile before you get to them.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, August 22, 2005
By 
Kim (Hartsdale, NY USA) - See all my reviews
I must agree with many of the reviewers, after reading "Naked" and "Dress Your Family..." I expected this book to have me laughing out loud. I am now on page 79 and have smiled once - I don't remember at what.

In other books that Sedaris wrote, he turns ordinary real-life events into hilarious encounters. I read his other books and found myself rereading lines to friends as we both laughed out loud. Instead of writing about his life (and the lives of others around him), Barrel Fever is a collection of mostly fiction stories (12) with four essays at the end of the book. I found none of the fictional stories to be funny, nor any of the essays.

If you want to laugh out loud, read "Naked" and "Dress Your Family in..." If you must read "Barrel Fever," borrow a friends copy so you won't feel guilty about wasting your money.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The first effort, and it shows, September 21, 2005
By 
While I have been a longtime fan of David Sedaris's, this book was clearly a first effort. There are some wonderful essays such as "Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family!", as well as his masterpiece, "The Santaland Diaries", but the rest were dead in the water. I understand them, they are to show us the hiden perversions in us all, but the above named essays would later reappear in his holiday collection for a reason: They were much funnier and more deserving of aclaim. Still, it was a good first effort, and I'm glad he became more polished and articulate.
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Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays
Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays by David Sedaris (Paperback - June 1, 1995)
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