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Naked Paperback – February 15, 2001
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About the Author
David Sedaris is a playwright, radio commentator, contributor to Esquire and apartment cleaner.
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Sedaris decides to take off and leave his family. This is when he travels all over the U.S., hitchhiking, working side by side with migrant workers, and seeing a side of life that is so seedy that suddenly his home life is looking a lot better. As you might imagine, taking so many risks brings him into some unimaginable situations. I was reminded that men too can be harassed by sexual predators.
He returns home to take on some unusual jobs, meeting some memorable characters along the way. The final chapter when he decides to spend a few days in a nudist camp is the icing on the cake. I loved it. Nudists are a hoot!
If you're like me, you'll find yourself rooting for Sedaris and laughing a lot. Sedaris has a talent for making the bizarre seem outrageously funny. But I didn't find the entire book to be "side-splitting." At 67, I was still naive enough to be shocked by some of the characters and situations. I felt like a social worker looking at some appalling people and then from time to time it was all just too funny. Some readers won't laugh, some will laugh as I did--just some of the time--others will roar with laughter throughout the book. It all depends on your sensitivities. I'm the kind of person who doesn't want everything sugarcoated for me. I don't scream TMI all the time. I can take a dose of the bizarre because my life wasn't always a 50s sitcom. If nothing else, this book could make you feel as I did that my life wasn't so bad. If you laugh, it's a bonus.
As a memoir, Naked is an unbelievably good collection of autobiographical essays. As you make your way through Naked, you just find yourself in disbelief at Sedaris' dysfunctional family. Everyone out there claims to have some sort of dysfunctional family, but Sedaris' truly takes the cake. From the authors childhood filled with his nervous tics and OCD habits to his teachers visiting his home while being offered alcoholic beverages while watching his mother make mock impersonations of her son. It makes you really feel for the author. The best part of Naked by far is the Ya-Ya, Sedaris' grandmother. It makes me wish I had at least one grandmother just like her growing up. If you don't find yourself laughing out loud at least once, you don't have a sense of humor :). Then the authors tales as a long-time hitchhiker while doing a wide variety of manual labor jobs give readers like myself hope that haven't quite figured out who they are or what they want to do in life. On a personal level, these tales were really what I liked the most about Sedaris. The fact that he's come out of all of the hell and many years of uncertainty/wandering to become a successful author and playwright is truly inspiring. It just goes to show you anything is possible, even if it takes until much later in life to figure it out.
My gripe with Naked comes as a "side-splitting" and "hilariously entertaining" memoir. For me, the humor started to die around the time Sedaris goes away to camp for a month. From that point on, the novel's comedic aspect drops off significantly. Granted, the novel definitely takes on a darker tone up until the last few chapters, but it was my expectation that it'd be funny for more than just half the book. In that regard, the reviews and descriptions of the book disappointed me.
Overall, it's definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to be genuinely captivated by another persons trials and tribulations as well as how they overcame them. Just don't expect to be a comedy from start to finish. I wouldn't quite give it 4 stars, but more along the lines of 3.5 stars. As it's been out for about 14 years now, Naked is certainly a bargain for the price. So if you end up not liking it as much as you thought, it won't have burned a large hole in your wallet. :)