Short stories and me have a tricky history. I like them in theory because, in theory, they are short and snappy like a good magazine article. Unfortunately, this theory is rarely supported. Instead of having a fun and personable tone, short stories are dense and heavy. The author uses the reduced space as an excuse to jam every word with arcane allusions and mysterious metaphors. I’m sick of analyzing and doubting each word in a sentence. Those works had a time and place in my life, but I promptly bid them adieu when I walked out of my eleventh grade English class.
Then at a certain point in my post-high school reading journey it became obvious that I would be able to avoid the world of short stories no longer. I started with a collection entitled Icons Of England that Bill Bryson curated and followed it up with Best Food Writing of 2011. While I didn’t immediately fall in love with the genre, I’ve begun to realize that shorter articles and stories aren’t always hard to pay attention to. I loved Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake and I also enjoyed reading the collection of vignettes that inspired A Christmas Story. I decided that I needed to read Sedaris’ work after nearly every comment about Crosley’s writing mentioned him.
I read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim in three different countries while traveling. It was a quick read and I enjoyed how the stories alternated between longer and shorter in length. This book, like all good short story collections, weaved together seemingly unconnected tales into a larger narrative. I’m not quite sure what the title had to do with the connections between the stories, but all of them did, more or less, discuss his family.
David Sedaris is, of course, all about the humor. If you enjoy a sarcastic humor that is a bit rude and impolite, you’ll like it. If you like Seinfeld, but wish they could go a bit further, you’ll like it. If you are a bit of a cynic yourself, you’ll like it. The stories take mundane facts of life and transform them into hysterical and fantastical situations. You may not laugh, I didn’t, but you’ll appreciate the humor.
Sedaris’s stories are what I want a short story to be. They clearly took a long time to write to get the tone and the mood just so, but don’t feel over wrought. I guess you could analyze, but you can appreciate them without knowing the eating the vanilla and chocolate parts of the cookie together symbolize unity (or is that Seinfeld?). I’m definitely looking forward to reading another book by Sedaris. Any recommendations?
Do you like reading humorous books/stories? What makes you laugh?
as always, i give my reference of humor from Bill Bryson. if you would laugh out loud on a subway train after reading: “My father, like all fathers, seemed to be competing in a world’s most boring man competition.” then you’re probably in good hands judging your sense of humor against mine.