Summer reading #2

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

This was the second book I finished this summer, and so far, the one that made me laugh the hardest. I’ve listened to David Sedaris’s essays before, as he frequently contributes to This American Life on NPR. So I knew going in that the book would be funny.

What I didn’t know was that the book is mostly about his family, in all its dysfunctional glory. And that some of the stories would make me laugh and cry at the same time. That I would feel sick to my stomach at how a nine-year-old girl can treat a grown man. That Sedaris is closer to my parents’ ages than mine. That sometimes I would abhor him, sometimes I would pity him, and sometimes I would feel as if he were writing about my life instead of his own.

My favorite story, I think, is about his brother, Paul, and the arrival of Paul’s baby daughter. Of course, to enjoy it as much as I did, first you have to read the essay introducing Paul, a foul-mouthed, self-assured redneck who owns his own business–as compared to the rest of the Sedaris siblings, who are artsy, neurotic and existing on some kind of fringe. Just so you know where he’s coming from.

I love that this man, so unlike me and so unlike his older brother, could nevertheless be transformed into an awestruck daddy, wrapped around his little girl’s finger. I love that, despite his rather sexist ways, he stood up for his wife when the doctor-with-no-bedside manner told her she couldn’t have any more kids. I love that Paul calls his big brother every day so he can hear the baby cry and coo and sing–despite naming David “Uncle Faggot”. So many acts and perspectives I despise, juxtaposed against heartwarming acts of love.

This is why I loved Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. We are all a mass of contradictions. Sometimes we just need to remember it.


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