Select one of the keywords
The David Sedaris Box Set    by David Sedaris order for
David Sedaris Box Set
by David Sedaris
Order:  USA  Can
Time Warner, 2002 (2002)
Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

If you enjoy Davis Sedaris's sardonic brand of humor, you're in for a real treat with this box set of fourteen CDs worth of it. It includes: Barrel Fever, Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Holidays on Ice. I recently read the latter, but enjoyed it even more with the author's own deadpan delivery, which reinforced my view that humor generally works much better in audio format. Amy Sedaris also performs in these CDs and there is a guest appearance by Ann Magnuson in Holidays On Ice.

Of all of them, I found that Barrel Fever has the darkest humor, including a particularly vengeful letter from a dead woman (left to be read at her funeral service), and a 'Homophobic Newsletter', which recounts a day of 'victimization'. Then there is the speech of 'just a guy from North Carolina' Don, an especially inane multiple Academy Award winner; and the pleasure that forensic pathologist Dr. Comfort takes in body parts and beetles. The tone overall reminded me of the movie Fargo, with the same sense of the everyday bizarre. Sedaris successfully demolishes all those who can only see their own point of view.

In Naked, the author begins with his 3rd grade teacher, Miss Chestnut, and her attempts to make the hyperactive, obsessive child that he was, stop licking her light switch. We see his mother sharing sherry and mimicry with a succession of teachers, but beneath the humor, have to feel for all the actors in this childhood drama, especially the boy who can't find the 'off switch' in his mind. The author is ruthless in his self portrayal, which includes a view of his grandmother as a 'primitive version of an ATM machine'. Descriptions of the family impact of his mother's cancer (and their wish for a time machine) are just as honest, with gritty empathy.

My favorite of all in this megadose of Sedaris humor was Me Talk Pretty One Day, which begins in speech therapy, moves on to a midget guitar teacher, and continues in Normandy, France, where the author and his partner Hugh went from 'homos' to 'homeowners'. Again, the humor is usually at his own expense as he enters the 'language pool, sink or swim' of French lessons. He makes very clear the incomprehension and incomprehensibility of being an American in Paris, who is in the position of sounding more or less like Yoda to the locals.

Sedaris is affectionate, acid, raunch, rude, sardonic and satirical, but always funny, with a perceptive eye for the absurd and ridiculous in all aspects of life, from childhood and family to homophobia and the holidays. This box set makes the perfect gift for a fan.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews