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Author David Sedaris’s essays describe family life

Observer Scene | Sunday, September 12, 2004

In “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” author David Sedaris embarks to entertain readers once again with his heartfelt and witty writing style in a collection of essays. The author of the bestselling “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and “Naked” looks once again to his own life and the lives of his family for material. Though his personal material combined with his unique satirical voice has been a successful formula for Sedaris in the past, it never feels quite right here. This time, Sedaris seems so preoccupied with giving his essays a tangible moral that they lose much of his trademark humor. However, there are times when Sedaris writes naturally in the funny and entertaining voice his readers have come to know. One of these moments is Sedaris’s account of his brother’s wedding in the essay “Rooster at the Hitchin’Post.” Here his writing is carefree and hilarious, and though the story clearly has a moral, its presence appears organic instead of self-consciously injected. Through the course of the book, we see Sedaris’s unique wit in glimpses, but it never feels as comfortable as in this look at his younger brother’s wedding. He describes a wedding featuring a service performed by a phone book psychic, a DJ named J.D and a dog as the flower girl in a way that only Sedaris could. Sedaris’s originality in telling the often absurd events of his life is what makes his essay interesting to read, and his uncompromising humor that keeps his readers laughing out loud. However, it seems that for the most part, this is lost in “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.” Although there are flashes of the David Sedaris readers have become familiar with, it seems his concern with inserting morals into his essays causes him to neglect the satirical style for which he has gained his fame. As a result, this makes his writing seem self-conscious and, at times, a bit cheesy. Clearly, this is not his best work, but there are moments when Sedaris gets it right. It is these moments that the reader holds out for, and at these moments when he or she is reminded why it is impossible not to love Sedaris and his entire family.