Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

Leafing through the pages of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is like turning the pages of a photo album of a humorously eccentric family in your neighborhood, with one of its members telling you an anecdote behind each photograph. It might sound a little “ordinary”, but it’s not—you can never associate that word with David Sedaris when you hold this book. In a clever yet off-kilter way, he wraps all mundane stories with oddball humor and poignancy that you will not know whether to laugh out loud or sniff because you’re moved after you read each essay. Hands down, after reading this book, Sedaris is officially listed on my roster of literary rock stars.

In twenty two essays, Sedaris shares some episodes of his life that he spent with his family. Mostly he tells embarrassing experiences of his parents and siblings, but he doesn’t let himself off the hook either as he also presents himself as a butt of ridicule. That, I think, is one of the main charms of this book—its self-deprecating hilarity is mixed with just the right amount of raw honesty, drawing in the readers. His sharp wit magnifies this characteristic; couple that with his storytelling technique where he perfectly combines what’s droll and what’s insightful, and you’ve got a book with humor that matters. Which is rare nowadays.

From the innocent picture of kids playing in the snow to a weird scene of a supposed erotic vacuum service, Sedaris successfully conveys to the readers the inanities of his family as well as his own anxieties. His thought processes are witty most of the time, but there’s always the undertone of pain that the reader will always catch. It’s magic how he can elicit empathy and guffaws from the readers without trying so hard.
Also, I would like to commend how Sedaris talks about his sexuality and the consequences that usually comes in its wake—a factor that is definitely not a common denominator of every family. To quote from one of the essays:

I wouldn’t know it until months later, but my father had kicked me out of the house not because I was a bum but because I was gay. Our little talk was supposed to be one of those defining moments that shape a person’s adult life, but he’d been so uncomfortable with the most important word that he left it out completely, saying only, “I think we both know why I’m doing this.” I guess I could have pinned him down, I just hadn’t seen the point. “Is it because I’m a failure? A drug addict? A sponge? Come on, Dad, just give me one good reason.”
Who wants to say that?

Over all, it’s a very good read and I recommend it. I’ll definitely check out David Sedaris’ other books.

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