Brad Feld

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Book Review – Dress Your Family in Courduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

Jun 07, 2004
Category Books

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris is fucking hilarious.

Sedaris has written several other books about his dysfunctional family. I guess I’ve been living under a rock so I didn’t hear about him until Thursday morning while listening to NPR’s interview of him while driving 100 miles an hour on E470 home from the airport (can I get a ticket for admitting that in a blog?). The interview had me laughing hard enough that I had to slow down to 80. I was at the grocery store later that day picking up some stuff so I grabbed his book.

Here are a few snippets. Multiple by 257 pages (and some context for each snippet) and you get the picture. For more on the David Sedaris phenomenon, read the NY Times article Turning Sour Grapes Into a Silk Purse.

About his sister Lisa… “My sister’s the type who religiously watches the fear segments of her local Eyewitness News broadcasts, retaining nothing by the headline. She remembers that applesauce can kill you but forgets that in order to die, you have to inject it directly into your bloodstream. Pronouncements that cellphone conversations may be picked up by strangers mix with the reported rise of both home burglaries and brain tumors, meaning that as far as she’s concerned, all telecommunication is potentially life threatening.

About his brother Paul (the overachiever in the family)… When my sisters and I eventually left home, it seemed like a natural progression – young adults shifting from one environment to the next. While our departures had been relatively painless, Paul’s was like releasing a domestic animal into the wild. He knew how to plan a meal but displayed a remarkable lack of patience when it came time for the actual cooking. Frozen dinners were often eaten exactly as sold, the Salisbury steak amounting to a stickless meat Popsicle. I phoned one night just as he was leaning a family pack of frozen chicken wings against the back door. He’d forgotten to defrost them and was now attempting to stomp the solid mass into three 6-inch portions, which he’d stack in a pile and force into his toaster oven. I heard the singular sound of boot against crystallized meat and listened as my brother panted for breath. “Goddamn…fucking…chicken…wings.” I called again the following evening and was told that after all that work, the chicken had been spoiled. It tasted like fish, so he threw it away and called it a night. A few hours later, having decided that spoiled chicken was better than no chicken at all, he got out of bed, stepped outside in his underpants, and proceeded to eat the leftovers directly from the garbage can. I was mortified. “In your underpants?” “Damned straight,” he said. “I ain’t getting dressed up to eat no fish-assed-tasting chicken.”

Another one about Paul the overachiever on the night of his wedding when David and Paul are walking Paul’s dogs Venus and the Great Dane – David is about to give Paul a mushy love you brother congrats on getting married kind of speech… A light rain began to fall, and just as I cleared my throat, Venus squatted in the grass, producing a mound of peanut-size turds. “Aren’t you going to clean that up?” I asked. Paul pointed to the ground and whistled for the Great Dane, which thundered across the lawn and ate the feces in one bite. “Tell me that was an accident,” I said. “Accident, hell. I got this motherfucker trained,” he said. “Sometimes he’ll stick his nose to her ass and just eat that shit on tap.” I thought of my borther standing in his backyard training a dog to eat shit and realized I’d probably continue thinking about it until the day I die. Forget the tears and brotherly speeches, this was the stuff that memories are made of. The Great Dane licked his lips and searched the grass for more. “What was it you were going to say?” Paul asked. “Oh, nothing.”

And finally, David’s Dad and his sister Lisa… I flew to Raleigh two weeks after the baby was born, and my father, unshaven and looking all of his eighty years, arrived half an hour late to pick me up at the airport. “You’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little out of it,” he said. “I’m not feeling too hot, and it took me a while to find my medicine.” It seemed he had a little infection and was fighting it by taking antibiotics orginally prescribed for his Great Dane. “Pills are pills,” he said. “Whether they’re for a dog or a human, they’re the same damned thing.” I thought it was funny and later told my sister Lisa, who did not get quite the kick out of it that I did. “I think that’s horrible,” she said. “I mean, how is Sophie supposed to get any better when Dad’s taking all her medicine?”