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Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim Hardcover – June 1, 2004
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Whether by nature or by nurture, Ma and Pa Sedaris certainly knew something about raising funny kids. Amy Sedaris has built a cult following for her Comedy Central character Jerri Blank, and David, the more famous of the two siblings, continues to spin his personal history into comedic gold. A good chunk of the material in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim debuted in other media outlets, such as The New Yorker, but Sedaris's brilliantly written essays deserve repeat reads.
Based on the author's descriptions, nearly every member of his family is funny, although some (like sister Tiffany, perhaps) in a tragic way. In "The Change in Me," Sedaris remembers that his mother was good at imitating people when it helped drive home her point. High-voiced, lovably plain-spoken brother Paul (aka The Rooster, Silly P) has long been a favorite character for Sedaris readers, though Paul's story takes on a serious note when his wife has a difficult pregnancy. The author doesn't shy away from embarrassing moments in his own life, either, including a childhood poker game that strays into strange, psychological territory. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim provides more evidence that he is a great humorist, memoirist, and raconteur, and readers are lucky to have the opportunity to know him (and his clan) so well. His funny family feels like our own. Perhaps they are luckier still not to know him personally. --Leah Weathersby
From Publishers Weekly
In his latest collection, Sedaris has found his heart. This is not to suggest that the author of Me Talk Pretty One Day and other bestselling books has lost his edge. The 27 essays here (many previously published in Esquire, G.Q. or the New Yorker, or broadcast on PRI's This American Life) include his best and funniest writing yet. Here is Sedaris's family in all its odd glory. Here is his father dragging his mortified son over to the home of one of the most popular boys in school, a boy possessed of "an uncanny ability to please people," demanding that the boy's parents pay for the root canal that Sedaris underwent after the boy hit him in the mouth with a rock. Here is his oldest sister, Lisa, imploring him to keep her beloved Amazon parrot out of a proposed movie based on his writing. ("'Will I have to be fat in the movie?' she asked.") Here is his mother, his muse, locking the kids out of the house after one snow day too many, playing the wry, brilliant commentator on his life until her untimely death from cancer. His mother emerges as one of the most poignant and original female characters in contemporary literature. She balances bitter and sweet, tart and rich—and so does Sedaris, because this is what life is like. "You should look at yourself," his mother says in one piece, as young Sedaris crams Halloween candy into his mouth rather than share it. He does what she says and then some, and what emerges is the deepest kind of humor, the human comedy.
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Top Customer Reviews
There are some clearly funny places though. The author's account of his brother's cooking habits and dog training techniques made me laugh so hard I dropped the book - then I immediately took it to my friend's house so she could read it, but made her read it aloud instead of doing it myself because I know I wouldn't have been able to speak aloud for the last few pages due to the gasping for air.
I also found it interesting that one of his sisters lives in my town - but my neighbor tells me this is not news, she'll introduce herself to you in the local library :)
God forbid we ever have a smoking prohibition, or DS will be in Tourette hell. I believe him utterly when he says that for him, smoking is a good thing.
If you like reading about imperfect people who care about each other but can be quite ludicrous, and observations of human oddity in general, this book is for you. (As are all his other books.) I found the second half of the book to be funnier than the first half.
I hate NPR the way cats hate baths. The way Shaq hates Kobe. The way Michael Moore hates America.
But I love NPR's own David Sedaris the way Joanie loves Chachi.
Ok, well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but not much of one.
This collection of ironic and laugh-till-you're-incontinent essays marks Sedaris' continuing claim on the title of "funniest man in France". Sure, that's not much of an accomplishment these days, but if he'd move back in with his wonderfully-eccentric family, he'd surely be the "funniest man in North Carolina" too.
Some of Sedaris' best and boldest work is in evidence here:
- How his neighbors' celebrating Halloween a day late taught him the meaning of "hate"
- His reminiscences of an all-male sleepover during which he briefly had ultimate power over his fellow teenage boys, power which he promptly abused (and relished abusing)
- The tale of how his family came to be slumlords
- His brother Rooster's redneck wedding
- The funniest Christmas story ever told, entitled (I kid you not) "Six to Eight Black Men"
How good is Sedaris?
Good enough to make me listen to NPR just to hear a comedian at the top of his game.
Dress Your Family doesn't quite have the belly laughs of Holidays, but it is comical nonetheless. One funny story is about his brother's wedding on the beach with his dogs as attendants (the flower girl was in heat). In another, he plays strip poker with his friends and makes up the rules in order to keep his clothes. Sedaris' self-deprecating humor is also amusing. The author had an unusual childhood, and while most boys were picking up footballs and hockey sticks, Sedaris was picking out wallpaper samples. But Dress Your Family is also filled with the angst of childhood, and most of us will identify with many of these stories. Some are downright heartbreaking. After dropping out of college, his father asks him to move out of the house. Only later does Sedaris learn the real reason: his father disapproves of his homosexuality.
Still, the Sedaris family has center stage here. With mom, dad, four sisters, and a very masculine brother, each one is quirkier than the next. It's hard to tell how much is Sedaris' very keen powers of observation, and how much is exaggeration. In any case, it's no wonder that when odd things happen to his sisters, they all scream at him "and I don't want to see this in one of your books!" Sedaris always promises to keep their secrets, but everyone knows they will appear sometime soon. Sedaris is an amazing writer and storyteller, and it is appropriate that he has such a rich source of material. I'm sure it will keep him going ad infinitum.
The pieces collected in DRESS YOUR FAMILY were published in various media in the past, though they flow as if continuously written just for this book. Sedaris may be writing from France these days, as a gay man who grew up in a large and not always conventional family, but he says volumes about American family dynamics and middle-class mores.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Which I should have probable guessed because no-one wears corduroy anymore.