Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

by

Author: David Sedaris

Title:  Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy

Genre:  Memoir/Humor/Special interest/LGBT/Audiobook

Publication date: 2004

Number of pages: 5 discs/6.5 hrs.

Geographical setting: U.S. & France

Time period: 1960s onwards present day

Series: (If applicable): Not applicable

Plot summary: A collection of 27 essays and “stories”, some previously published in magazines such as Esquire and The New Yorker, and broadcast on This American Life, based on actual events from the author’s childhood and present life and read by the author himself. Sedaris is a truly original American humorist in the literary tradition, crafting life’s ordinary moments into funny, sad, tender stories that are best heard in the author’s distinct, high-pitched voice that is reminiscent of Truman Capote’s. With his slight southern drawl and his obvious affection for his family, to hear Sedaris read is to understand that Sedaris’s wit is sharpest when directed at himself. Once you get used to that odd nasally voice, it is really easy to like Sedaris whose comic brilliance is buffed by an undertone of gentleness and compassion for the characters that fill his life. This collection includes memories of growing up in New York and being locked out of the house with his five siblings by their mother who just longed to be left alone after one snow day too many with the kids; the family’s brush with fortune via rich “Aunt Monie”; a hilarious story of playing strip poker at an adolescent sleepover when Sedaris already knew he preferred looking at naked boys instead of girls. The stories are not always laugh-out loud funny but they always find the funny side of things, even if they just evoke a smile of recognition.

Subject headings: Humorous stories, American.

Appeal: Witty, personal, original, story-telling, droll, satirical, sly, absurd, family stories, funny, wry, tender, self-deprecating, humorous, autobiographical.

Three terms that best describe this book: Droll; Personal; Surprisingly poignant.

Similar author and works and why they are similar:

3 Relevant  Non-fiction Works and Authors:

a) Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. Although Burroughs’ writing is edgier and his family way more disturbing than Sedaris’s, it is hard not to make the connections between the two gay writers and their families, all-American in their own dysfunctional way and filled with an odd affection for each other. Running is a full-length memoir of his teen years spent with his mother’s psychotherapist’s family.

b) Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World by Sarah Vowell. This is a quirky collection of autobiographical essays, snarky observations about American culture, and rambling thoughts about everything in between (Godfather movies, Frank Sinatra, road trip with her twin sister). Vowell’s voice is alternately sardonic and wickedly funny, and heartbreaking too in its all too human suffering.

c) Fraud by David Rakoff. Another comedic talent born of Public Radio, Rakoff’s sharp observations are stretched beyond the surface and often tinged with sadness, maybe because he is a cancer survivor. But it is not a self-pitying or maudlin sadness; Rakoff is definitely a humorist, whether he’s writing about his appearance on a daytime soap or his experience at a Buddhist Retreat led by action actor Steven Seagal.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

a) Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor. These nine stories published posthumously in 1965 are almost more tragic than comic but O’Connor definitely has the touch of comic about her, dark though it was. An American genius of the short story craft, O’Connor’s stories set in the South about racial bigotry, generational conflict, filial dependence, faith, morality — the lives of seemingly ordinary people — will leave you moved, disturbed, thinking.

b) Self Help by Lorrie Moore. Moore could be the female David Sedaris as she also writes about families with a sharp, unique wit but Moore writes short stories and novels. Her literary chops are weightier, having been honed at Cornel l’s MFA program and recognized by the O. Henry Award, among others (she currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). In this collection of nine stories, her first, she writes observantly, ironically, passionately about relationships between mothers, daughters, lovers set in the 1980s.

c) Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Salinger wrote a number of short stories after Catcher in the Rye that are equally brilliant and Franny & Zooey is one of the best examples. Set largely in New York about the educated but dysfunctional Glass family, this is a coming-of-age story about a teenage sister and brother who find themselves helping each other grapple with the big questions of the meaning of life.

Name: Soon Har

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