Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris


David Sedaris is an excellent writer. There is no doubt about that. The man can turn a phrase and tell a story, and his unique perspective on the world results in some very amusing descriptions. The man can write, and reading good writing is always a pleasure.

Still, I can't seem to quite get on board with Sedaris the way I can with, say, Rick Bragg or Ruth Reichl or other "memoir" writers I truly love. And I'm not sure I can pinpoint the precise reason for this disconnect. Sedaris isn't as warm and affectionate a writer, to be true, and there's a slight undercurrent of anger and contempt in his work--an undercurrent that is unsettling and even disturbing at times.

Perhaps I am not being fair. Perhaps in his way, Sedaris is just as devoted to his family as Bragg. Perhaps he has a passion comparable to Reichl's love for food. But I just don't see it.

I guess that may be the difference--his work seems to lack joy. He has a killer sense of humor, and a sharp wit, and writes well, but he doesn't seem happy. He doesn't really write about things that he loves. Not that I am expecting a schlock-fest. But a little genuine joy goes a long way. Page after page of neurosis and sarcasm and wry wit gets old if you can't really see the heart behind it. Occasionally, a glimpse of real emotion peeps through, but I guess I'm a bigger softie than I realized, because without more heart, he'll never be one of my favorite authors.

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