Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cannonball Read #15: Naked by David Sedaris

I read David Sedaris' Naked so quickly that nothing seemed to really have stuck in my mind except how hilarious some of the short stories were. I do most of my reading on the subway, so it's really surprising to people when the girl next to them starts cracking up, and that happened to me several times while I was reading this book.

Naked is a collection of short stories that Sedaris has penned about his life. A lot of them revolve around his gigantic Greek family, and they really seem to be the makings of some indie movie about a dysfunctional family that comes together in the end. Except the members of the Sedaris clan don't really seem to peddle in platitudes about how "family is the most important thing" or "spending time together is precious." Ma and Pa Sedaris can seem incredibly cruel (or thick) at times. In "A Plague of Tics," Sedaris' mom accurately imitates his idiosyncrasies to his visiting teachers, deflecting their criticism of his obsessive -compulsive behavior by charming them into laughter. In "The Women's Open," Sedaris' dad insists on dragging the children to boring golf tournaments, and then refuses to go home even though his sister got her first period.

It was a little difficult for me to connect the way Sedaris was as a child (in the beginning of the book) to the way he was as an adult. As a child, he was a nervous ball of anxiety and obsessive-compulsiveness, which "A Plague of Tics" so humorously showed; then as a young adult, he was content to hitchhike around America and pick up whatever odd jobs he could ("The Incomplete Quad" and "C.O.G.") He said the smoking in college really helped to loosen him up.

Reading about his childhood (his family stories stick out more in my mind than his college years) really made me... (the word is) grateful. For not being the child of his parents. Now, I love my mother and I would never want her to be any other way than the way she is (even though I might complain differently to my friends about it) but I'm not sure how I would turn out if she was like Sedaris' parents (a famous author? sigh.) It's not that they are terrible human beings; they just seem to do and say really awful things. Even though everything was written in a really funny and entertaining manner, I kinda got the sense that Sedaris had to see humor in his childhood or else he might just be constantly disappointed with his parents. It could be that or maybe he's just grown-up enough that he has forgiven his parents. Not that there would necessarily be something to forgive for, but that he is now able to look back and just see that certain things were done for his own good, and other things were done because his parents, just like him, are human.


Jen K said...

Great review - I especially like the part where you talk about his childhood, and you're right, given another author, those stories definitely could have become one of those memoirs about a terrible childhood.

As much as everyone else talks about how great David Sedaris is, I've never really been able to get into him. The stories he has that are funny are hilarious, but he also a lot that I just don't quite connect with - instead of finding them funny, they just seem weird and awkward. However, even in some of the stories I didn't like that much there would occasionally be a phrase or sentence that would have me laughing to the point of tears.

blakspring said...

another book for the list. i remember reading me talk pretty one day, also often on the train and cracking up constantly. and i love his sister amy. such a nut.