Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Naked

From Naked, by David Sedaris:
Open quote 

I'm also used to pulling my pants above my navel and tightening my belt to diminish my gut. Jangling the keys in my pocket, thoughtlessly gnawing at the collars of my shirts: these things are lost to me now. It feels dangerous to drink a cup of hot coffee, and twice in the last hour I've hopped up to brush glowing cigarette ash off what I once considered to be my private parts."

That's David Sedaris describing life in a nudist camp. After the jump, my review.

Grade: C+

I wanted to like this book, I really did. I'd seen David Sedaris frequently on late night television talk shows. He is always entertaining, a little quirky in a good way. His book titles alone (e.g., Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls) dare you to open the book and read the whole thing. But I had never done that; I have never read anything by him. So, when nothing caught my interest in the available Kindle books at the Richardson Public Library in my usual categories, I picked Naked in hopes of finding a new (for me) source of ... what, humor, satire, wry observations on life? Yeah. That's what I wanted. Maybe I wanted too much. Sedaris might make a great guest to talk to at a party, but living or working with him all day long is a bit much.

In a series of stories from his own life, Sedaris delivers humor, satire, wry observations on life. He relates his childhood OCD ("Regardless of the heat, I mowed the lawn wearing long pants, knee-high boots, a football helmet, and a pair of goggles. Before starting, I scouted the lawn for rocks and dog feces, slowly combing the area as if it were mined. Even then I pushed the mower haltingly, aways fearing that this next step might be my last."). His mother smoked, drank, and talked smart ("Health, be it mental or physical, had never been her family’s strong suit. The Leonard family coat of arms pictured a bottle of scotch and a tumor.") His over-protective father made up stories ("Danger was everywhere and it was our father's lifelong duty to warn us.") As a youth, Sedaris was a volunteer at a mental hospital ("'Let me get this straight,' she said. 'You want to work here for no money? Tell me, son, are you by any chance a current resident?'"). He talks about going to college ("'College is the best thing that can ever happen to you,' my father used to say, and he was right, for it was there that I discovered drugs, drinking, and smoking."). He also hitchhiked across the country with a quadraplegic, worked odd jobs with even odder characters, and spent a week in a nudist camp.

Summarized like that, extracting quotes from some of the stories, I have to admit that the book sounds hilarious. And to be honest many, many people do find Sedaris hilarious. But I never laughed out loud. I never found the satire to be particularly biting. Maybe it's because Sedaris himself doesn't come across as all that likable a character in his own book. He comes across as spoiled ("It wasn’t that we were poor. According to my parents, we were far from it, just not far enough from it to meet my needs. I wanted a home with a moat rather than a fence.") and narcissistic ("if you want my opinion, I think my most outstanding feature is my ability to accept a compliment."). So, I hate to say it, I could never get into the book. In the end, Naked left me feeling mostly just meh. But don't take my word for it. Plenty of others have a different opinion.

Naked in Kindle format is available from the Richardson Public Library. :-)

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