Saturday, 21 May 2011

Book #39 Naked by David Sedaris


Naked, published in 1997 is the second book by David Sedaris I have read having read Me Talk Pretty One Day, a later work, some years ago. All of Sedaris' work comprises of anecdotal, autobiographical short stories.  A comic writer many of his stories are genuinely hilarious, but comedy is a personal taste thing and I found the stories overall in this one less amusing than I did the previous book I'd read, which isn't to say that was the case with every story.

In this book Sedaris tackles such diverse topics as his time on a nudist colony, his Greek grandmother, his volunteerism in a psychiatric hospital, his sister Lisa's friendship with a prostitute, a pornographic novel discovered in their home, Lisa's first period and her marriage, and his childhood issues with his homosexuality and OCD among others.

I felt when reading 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' that Sedaris' childhood made anyone's seem dull and tame, and 'Naked' expands on this, the man's life is full of incident and wild stories to tell at dinner parties, whilst what happens to David the majority of the time is unfortunate and often cringeworthy, you feel slightly envious that he had all these experiences. It beats the heck out of childhood Saturdays spent traipsing around garden centres.

The funniest stories this time round for me were 'The Drama Bug' a story in which Sedaris becomes taken with Shakespeare and begins to address his family in Shakespearean Language, which genuinely made me laugh aloud, The Women's Open : the story of Lisa's first period which distinguishes itself for Lisa's reaction to her father in the car. Cyclops, the story of the way in which parents project the worst case scenario outcome onto everything you do; I also liked True Detective an episode in which David tries to establish who is wiping their bum on the bathroom towels among other crimes and finally my favourite The Incomplete Quad chronicling Sedaris' friendship with a disabled student at university, and their various attempts at using her disability for financial gain, getting away with shoplifting and hitchhiking, really funny.

Some of the stories though are actually quite sad, the fact that nobody really liked his grandmother Ya-Ya, and the story of his mothers diagnosis with terminal cancer. Funny or sad, these are stories of a large, chaotic family and the sort of emotions and relationships that occur within a family dynamic, and as such should be very identifiable with a lot of readers. I think like me, other readers will like certain stories better than others and perhaps will like ones that I wasn't too keen on, and dislike ones that I enjoyed.

I struggled with maybe three stories in the book, C.O.G, Naked,  and Something For Everyone which made the last section of the book a bit of a "go slow" as these were longer stories which I didn't really find interesting or funny. Like most short story collections you take to some stories and not to others which then makes the book rather a patchy experience. I don't know if I'll read a third collection of his stories, I think it's important that there was a long gap between my reading this book and Me Talk Pretty One Day because I think if you read all his stuff on top of one another it would become a bit samey and irritating.

I do wonder how his family, his brothers and sisters who are still living feel about having themselves and their childhood exposed in such a way, I read that an adaptation of Me Talk Pretty One Day was blocked after Amy Sedaris, herself a writer, voiced concerns to David about how their family would be portrayed.

Overall, I really enjoyed some of it and some of it bored me so maybe we'll say a 6.5/10

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