Monday, 15 December 2014

Family Ties

In 2004 David Sedaris published his collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. As he depicts vignettes from his childhood in North Carolina, through to his adult life in New York and Europe, Sedaris shines a spotlight on his family and highlights the absurdity of so many family interactions.

Funny, touching, bizarre and bitchy, Sedaris doesn't hold back in depicting his parents, siblings and partner. Whether describing his boofhead brother's wedding in 'Rooster at the Hitchin Post', or the hoarding of one of his sisters in 'Put a Lid on it', Sedaris is brutal. Whether he is brutally honest is another matter - I suspect there is more than a little bit of artistic licence taken.

There are plenty of touching moments too - particularly in relation to his homosexuality. Clearly his father had difficulty accepting his eldest son, kicking him out of the house. His brother routinely calls him names. He is inundated by hate when listening to talk back radio. Among the name calling and shame, life lessons emerge. He peppers his tales with truisms such as 'Boys who spent their weekends making banana nut muffins did not, as a rule, excel in the art of hand-to-hand combat.'

Perhaps what makes Sedaris interesting is that he is such an unlikely character himself. Neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, unsympathetic, Sedaris is a wonderful humourist who makes readers uncomfortable when describing his own discomfort.

I have previously reviewed Sedaris' Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Wicked Bestiary on this blog.