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Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim    by David Sedaris order for
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Spanning the years from childhood to the present, David Sedaris offers a collection of personal essays in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. As usual his writing expresses a veneer of humor overlying self-conscious introspection, that entertains and saddens at the same time.

Undelivered promises must be universal to childhood. On this subject, Sedaris tells us that he and his siblings saw their father 'as an actor auditioning for the role of a benevolent millionaire. He'd never get the part but liked the way that the words felt in his mouth.' He also tells us they were 'the family that never shut down' and that 'Every night was basically a slumber party'. In Consider the Stars, the author speaks of being a bullied outsider, and feeling 'honored' when hit in the mouth with a rock by Thad, a member of the school celebrity circle. He explains Thad's 'uncanny ability to please people', even his victim. I felt for the boy in The Change in Me, who is slapped down while experimenting with his self-image, and is betrayed by a friend, who should have supported him in a time of need. It's only funny until you put yourself in his place.

Blood Work speaks of years cleaning apartments in New York. In Repeat After Me, Sedaris visits his sister and converses with her parrots - I wonder if his siblings are really as eccentric as portrayed, surely he's exaggerating! In Six to Eight Black Men, he has fun pondering Dutch Christmas traditions. Chicken in the Henhouse addresses the feelings of guilt that an overactive imagination can inspire: 'I am a person who feels guilty for crimes I have not committed ... It's all the anxiety with none of the free stuff.' And Baby Einstein takes a very funny look at the family's reaction to the first, and possibly only, grandchild. There is poignancy as well as hilarity in the Sedaris nostalgia, and the sensitive human being is always visible behind the raconteur. I recommend Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim to you as an engagingly ecclectic collection.

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