“The experience left her with a certain haunted quality I very much admired. She’d looked into the face of something horrible, and I wanted to know what that felt like.”
“Naked” by David Sedaris
There are plenty of really stellar and poignant quotes from David Sedaris’s collection of episodic memoirs, Naked, that I like much more than the one I’ve posted to accompany this review. They’re smarter, more clever, and more biting, and would probably make me sound a lot smarter just by having used them. But I couldn’t back down from this one, because this one, from Sedaris musing on his mother’s experience in witnessing the care of her old, delusional father, resonates so perfectly with how I feel toward Sedaris’s writing. Naked is a book that proves that he, like his mother, seems to have looked into the face of many horrible things, and he somehow makes me wish I could experience that awfulness for myself.
I’ve said before that Lois McMaster Bujold is the writer I read that is the writer I want to be, but the thing with Bujold is that I know I can write like her. David Sedaris ist he write I want to be that I know I’ll never be able to imitate. Ever since I first heard him on This American Life, I was entranced with his dry tone and his outrageous humor, but what I truly fell in love with was the wild life he lives. As one of my friends put it, he “invites the crazy in” in such a way I would never be able to, which allows him to write up his memoirs (exaggerated slightly, to be sure, but still) and make them fascinating and real and brilliant and touching.
Despite all this outpouring of adoration for Sedaris, I will have to admit that I was not as enchanted by Sedaris Naked as I was when he was talking pretty one day or engulfed in flames, but this volume is not without its moments. The entirety of the title story, wherein Sedaris subjects himself to a week-long stay at a nudist trailer park, left me eager for more and considering sending for some brochures. His essay about his ya-ya made me yearn for a Greek upbringing in the way that Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex did, and “The Women’s Open” was such a stark look at a father who can’t relate to his daughters, an experience so different from my own that I can’t help but find it fascinating and heartbreaking. The Sedaris clan is like an alien entity from my own, a new species that I just want to poke and prod at, and Sedaris does it for me in ways that I can’t help but be impressed by. He welcomes you into his world without any pomp or circumstance, take it or leave it, and I’ll gladly take it and be grateful for his candid thoughts.
That said, I felt quite a few of the stories ended in a little bit of a fizzle rather than the punch I have come to expect from Sedaris, and I felt half of them were pretty strong and the other half were fairly unmemorable. It lags behind as probably my least favorite of his books that I’ve read so far, but I still enjoyed it a great deal. If you’re looking to dive in, I’d recommend one of the other books linked above, but Naked is still well worth the viewing.
Books read: 007/100.