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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy by David Sedaris

I heard David Sedaris described on NPR as the greatest living essayist. I think the reviewer had it all wrong. David Sedaris is the greatest essayist dead or alive. As a faithful reader since Barrel Fever, I mentioned to a friend that I knew the Sedaris family better than my own. But like he said, “no family could be half as interesting.” Agreed. To live in Sedaris’ world is to know a mother so fed up with her kids on a school snow day that she locks them out of the house all afternoon while she sips wine. You learn of the Dutch version of Santa Claus who was once the Bishop of Turkey. Instead of elves, he travels around with 6 to 8 black men. We feel for the family the year their father decides to buy a vacation house on the beach. By the time he finishes, the house becomes a bar in the basement of the family house. We travel through tales about junior high boys playing strip poker at a slumber party and of a great-great aunt (filthy rich) who leaves David’s mother a substantial inheritance which she uses to blackmail her husband to dump his Greek mother in a nursing home. You marvel at David and his best friend Dan, tired of earning minimum wage, turn to posing as hippies and begging at the state fair. If you are not familiar with David Sedaris, now is the time to acquaint yourself with a gifted humor essayist. Be prepared for plenty of strange looks if you dare read this in public as you will not be able to contain the laughter. But, at the same time, you learn that your life and your family are not so strange and different after all. - Thomas Miller