Monday, February 23, 2004

David Sedaris

I had beening planning to write some mucho serioso post today. It was going to be either further thoughts on housekeeping or how the housing market and educational angst is driving the middle class to ruin.

Nah. I'm in a good mood. Had one of those perfect days of half time child care which was miraculously free from strife and half time at the library where I sat for 4-1/2 hours happily working on my iBook.

Instead of the serioso post, I'm going to write about David Sedaris, the writer de jour in Apt. 11D.

Last month, I read three of his books:Naked, Holidays On Ice, and Me Talk Pretty One Day. Late in December, when I read Holidays on Ice, I kept my husband up because I was laughing so hard. Sedaris writes short essays about his life and his quirky family. Growing up in suburban North Carolina with a sarcastic mother and an earnest father, he had the ordinary life that most of us can relate to. His talent lies in finding humor in those bizarre rituals and happenings in family life, liking passing around a dirty book with your siblings.

In one essay "True Detective" from Naked he starts writing about his mom's and his sister's obsession with detective shows on TV, but it goes some place much darker...

It was one thing to sit in front of the television second-guessing a third-rate detective program, but quite another to solve a real case. We were well into the summer reruns when our household was shaken up by a series of very real crimes no TV detective could ever hope to crack. Someone in our family had taken to wiping his or her ass on the bath towels. What made this exceptionally disturbing was that all our towels were fudge-colored. You'd be drying your hai when, too late, you noticed an unmistakable odor on your hands, head, and face. If nothing else, life in the suburbs promised that you might go from day to day without finding shit in your hair.... The criminal hit all three bathrooms, pausing just long enough to convince the rest of us that it was finally safe to let down our guard. I might spend twenty minutes carefully sniffing the towel only to discover that this time the asshold had used the washcloth."

Sedaris also writes about the many odd jobs that he had over the years -- making clocks in the shape of the state of Oregan, stripping floors, creating performance art while juiced up on crystal meth, moving furniture in New York City. Sometimes he would take a job just for the romance of it. In college, he spent a summer picking apples with migrant laborers. Through these jobs, he comes across a slew of characters. But what makes Sedaris great is that he seems to like these people even as he points out their quirks and ticks. He isn't making fun of them.

The best essay in Naked starts off with Sedaris teasing his younger brother about getting caught with his pants down at work. Sedaris calls a nudist colony for a brochure, so he could leave it with his brother. But when the brochure comes in the mail, on a whim Sedaris decides to go himself. He writes about his initial awkwardness about walking around nude, and the saggy old people playing tennis without their clothes on. At first, he is horrified and embarrassed, but as the week goes on, he gets used to tucking his cigarettes into his socks and head out the door carrying only a towel. He also has a real affection for the naked old people.

During the ride into town Millie reflected upon the upcoming sunbathers' convention set to take place next week in Massachusetts. "That's where I married Phil," she said, referring to her second husband. "My four sons gave me away, just as nude and beautiful as they could be. They used to be so much fun, my children. We'd go to all kinds of nude parks and beaches, but then they got older and married clothes-minded girls who won't have anything to do with my way of life." She shook her head and scowled at the passing landscape. "Why did they have to go and marry girls like that? You try to raise them right and look what happens."

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