Saturday, August 21, 2010

Naked (book) by David Sedaris

I have no idea what to call this book - fiction, non-fiction, fiction-y non-fiction? I've seen this book called a memoir, and lots of the chapters do seem to be based on events in Sedaris's life (how many liberties Sedaris took with the truth in order to ramp up the humor, I don't know), but a few of the chapters are just off-the-wall odd.

I'm not including a synopsis in this post - for one thing, I don't think I can remember what happened in each chapter, since I've waited longer than I should have to write this post, and, for another, my synopsis would just be a list of events - I doubt I'd be able to capture the funny, and, most likely, my list would probably leech all the funny out.

Each of Sedaris's books has moments that I like and moments that I don't - I really didn't like the first couple chapters of this one and almost didn't read the rest of the book because of them. Sedaris's description of himself as a child with socially crippling behavioral tics just seemed too unbelievable, or maybe just too terrible for me to find funny. And yet, I mostly enjoyed Sedaris's stories about his time at a nudist colony, his journey with a quadriplegic girl (they pretended to be married so as to take advantage of the kindness of strangers), the mystery of the poop on the washcloths and towels, the dangers of hitchhiking, his crazy Greek grandmother, and more.

I have to be in the right mood to read Sedaris's stuff, because, in the wrong mood, the things he writes about can be more horrific than humorous - plus, Sedaris's mix of humor and seriousness may not go down as easily. For instance, in this book, Sedaris writes a bit about his mother having cancer. Although there's humor there, there's also the sad moments when Sedaris writes about things he wishes he'd done differently. At one point, in the parts about his quadriplegic college roommate (which I can't find right now, so I can't confirm her name), Sedaris notes that, not only was it sometimes like his roommate was invisible to the world, but that he, too, became invisible when he pushed her wheelchair. Of course, Sedaris used this to his advantage by teaching her how to shoplift, but these snippets do prompt one to think about things. I had an interesting conversation with one of my coworkers using this bit of Sedaris's book as a basis.

Other parts of Naked make me amazed that he survived to write the book: his scary hitchhiking experience, the freaky guy he worked with while stripping and refinishing woodwork, the creepy guy at the apple packing plant, etc.

Although Naked had its moments, it's not my favorite of Sedaris's books - that would probably be Me Talk Pretty One Day. I'm not sure I'd recommend this one to anyone but other Sedaris fans.

  • Running with Scissors: A Memoir (book) by Augusten Burroughs - I haven't read anything by this author, but his sense of humor and strange (and probably embellished, or at least exaggerated) childhood seems similar to Sedaris's - warped and strange.
  • I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (non-fiction book) by Amy Sedaris - For those who are curious about the kind of insane hilarity other members of David Sedaris's family might be capable of, this book might be a good fit.  It's a humorous guide to entertaining, with a few helpful tips mixed in here and there.  Although I don't remember Amy coming up much in Naked, I know that at least one of David Sedaris's books has a more extended portion featuring her: I seem to remember something about her having feet so calloused that they're hoof-like, as well as something about a fat suit.
  • Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence (book) by Paul Feig - I haven't personally read this one, although it sounds like a great fit for anyone who enjoyed Sedaris's tales of his childhood and his tendency to stretch the truth a bit (one would hope, at least) for comedic effect.  Feig's years in school were apparently horrible, embarrassing, and hilarious to read about.  I think I'll have to put Feig on my TBR list.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (book) by Christopher Moore - If you'd like more irreverent humor, this might be a good book to try.  It's the story of Christ, from his childhood to his crucifixion, as told by Biff, Christ's annoying friend. This is the only book on the list that isn't a memoir or non-fiction.


  1. I read Running with Scissors and did not like it, but I like David Sedaris' stuff.

  2. I haven't read that. Usually I really like Sedaris' stuff, too. I think the reason I like Me Talk Pretty One Day best is because of the part where he's learning French - it reminded me of all the foreign language classes I've taken and all the moments when I've been even more aware than usual that my German skills are less than stellar.