four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
user_rating: 
0
A-DressFamilyIn these 21 essays, Sedaris once again pillages his truest subject: his family. By now, many know (and love, hate, or pity) his tightfisted father, anxious mother, paranoid sisters, and phone addict brother, the collective source of memories about Christmas traditions and elaborate adult relations. "Us and Them" recalls an oddball family that trick-or-treats the night after Halloween—forcing a young Sedaris to cough up his candy. "The Girl Next Door" features a neglected 9-year-old who rejects an older Sedaris’s offer of friendship. The collection, more introspective in tone than in previous volumes, offers a valuable lesson for this beloved humorist: "Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you’re offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someone’s feelings."
Little, Brown. 288 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0316143464

Providence Journal 4.5 of 5 Stars
"After reading a David Sedaris essay, it is not uncommon to have to catch your breath, both from laughing so hard and from the poignant observation he has imparted. … If it’s possible to choose, this collection is David Sedaris’ best book yet." Ann Hood

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[T]hough Sedaris, who’s more than comfortable with his sexuality, has no political ax to grind (even when his father, who can’t bring himself to pronounce the word ‘gay,’ casually tosses Sedaris out of the house because he can’t deal with his son’s gayness), his antics are often of far more subversive consequence than those of let-it-all-hang-out sex advice dispenser Dan Savage." David Ehrenstein

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Like his earlier performances, the essays are sardonic, funny and wry, but at the same time there is a new strain of introspection that makes for a book with more emotional resonance, a more complex aftertaste. The embarrassments of adolescence, the difficulties of connecting, the sense of being a perpetual outsider—these perennial themes of the author are not simply played for self-deprecating laughs in this volume, but are made to yield a more Chekhovian brand of comedy." Michiko Kakutani

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"[A]s snortingly hilarious as Sedaris is at times … there’s also something frustratingly remote about him. … Sedaris seems to be newly aware of the safety margin he puts between himself and his subjects, and he has taken at least a few timid steps to acknowledge it, even if he isn’t quite sure how to deal with it." Stephanie Zacharek

Portland Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Sedaris’ hysterical tales of small personal moments are right up front on the best-seller shelves as readers embrace all that they see in themselves. I have a brother, too! I’m Greek! I’ve been to Paris! … Sedaris is a master of the humorous understatement." Chelsea Cain

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"You’ve been here before, but you won’t laugh any less hard, or shake the uncomfortable sense that Sedaris, like all great humorists, is somehow spying on all your own most revealing and private humiliations. … Sedaris is, needless to say, on course for another rendezvous with social embarrassment, an adult version of his Tomkey candy rampage that will dress down his phobias, presumptions and hauteurs in world-class fashion." Chris Lehmann

Critical Summary

Critics agree that Corduroy and Denim marks Sedaris’s transition from a humorist and essayist into a full-fledged memoirist. The volume returns to the dysfunctional childhood and adulthood tribulations that made Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day bestsellers, and contains the same snarky wit, heartbreaking humor, and touch of malice. But this time, melancholy, introspection, and even a bit of sadness create more emotionally wrought stories. Perhaps Sedaris is, as Newsday suggests, finally recognizing the distance he often puts between himself and his subjects. The only complaint? A few pieces add humor in inappropriate places (does Sedaris really covet the Anne Frank house?). A must read for Sedaris fans; for novices, the best introduction to one of the nation’s funniest writers.