Click here to read reviewer Angela McQuay's take on Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.
David Sedaris is the rare writer whose pieces always seem fresh, no matter how many times you’ve read them. For instance, I was already familiar with several of the essays that appear in his last collection, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, from his concert CD and various magazines. But reading them again – in some cases, only a month or two after experiencing them for the first time – they were just as hilarious, offbeat and original the second time around. I didn’t skip over a single one.
Sedaris, as many already know, is the cult hero behind the brilliantly funny book Me Talk Pretty One Day, which mostly focused on his struggles as a non-Francophone living in France with his boyfriend, Hugh. Corduroy and Denim deals somewhat with his culture clashes, but this time around, the main focus is on his wildly eccentric North Carolina family.
The brood includes his salt-of-the-earth parents, Lou and Sharon, redneck brother Paul (better known as Rooster to hardcore fans), paranoid animal lover sister Lisa, writer-actress sister Amy (who has carved out her own cultish niche in the entertainment world), borderline outlaw sister Tiffany and barely mentioned sister Gretchen.
The collection is predictably hilarious, with such classic vignettes as “Monie Changes Everything,” in which Sedaris is given brief entry into the privileged life of a rich, distant aunt, and “Slumus Lordicus,” about the time his parents became landlords. Two of the best pieces, “Rooster at the Hitchin’ Post” and “Baby Einstein,” revolve around his brother, whose swarthy machismo is matched only by his powerful love for his family (and his incredibly foul mouth). Other pieces involve Sedaris’s bizarre takes on everyday life, such as “Six to Eight Black Men,” in which he muses on how different the holidays are in Amsterdam, and the darkly hilarious “Possession", in which an apartment-hunting Sedaris finds his dream home – the Anne Frank house (“The entire building would have been impractical and far too expensive,” he muses. “But the part where Anne Frank and her family had lived…was exactly the right size and adorable, which is something they never tell you”).
But Sedaris’s work, funny and offbeat as it is, is never glib and is occasionally heartbreaking, as in the spare and sad, “Hejira,” about how Sedaris’s father kicked him out of the house for being gay. It is, simply, a wonderful collection of stories that are funny the first time you read them, and actually improve upon experiencing them again.