Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

For a long while, I was off Sedaris. Something about him had started to rub me the wrong way. It didn't matter of course. He became wildly popular and can live in France. In fact, it wasn't until his pieces about his life in France started to appear in The New Yorker that I began reading him again. While they could still be bizarre and bitchy, there was a maturity to his writing that grabbed me. He seemed to be writing from the heart more and shooting from the lip less. Now he makes me cry almost as much as he makes me shake with laughter.

To that end, I have some catching up to do on his backlist. I picked up this one at one of my fave used books joints and dove in. I'd like to think the maturity I find in his work is shared. I was in my late 20's when I first came upon an advance copy of Barrel Fever. Now I'm just the other side of 50. Sedaris is less shrieky but no less biting and there is such grace in so many of the pieces, especially those about his family, both currently and looking back. It makes me envious that I'm not closer to my own sibs. C'est la.

The Ship Shape, about his family potentially purchasing a vacation beach house, was among my favorites. However, since I've read him out of order, it hearkened back to one of his most moving pieces from nine years later. In 2013, he wrote Now We Are Five, a piece mostly about the aftermath of the suicide of his sister, Tiffany. His family gathers at a beach house and Sedaris decides he will purchase them the beach house his parents almost bought but didn't all those years ago in Ship Shape. It evokes memories of their youth and vacation and how little they knew about Tiffany by the end. How she had grown away. There is sadness and loss and longing and, of course, sly laughs.

The rest of the collection can be described similarly though the laughs are a bit broader. Over the years, we've come to know his family a bit. It even feels like we have watched them grow up. His brother, Paul, referred to as The Rooster, hasn't changed an iota but has grown as a man, looking after their aging father like I never expected. His sisters like a chorus and David, well, he's David, only more so. 

I'm glad I'm back to reading him again.