David Sedaris,
Dress Your Family
in Corduroy & Denim

(Time Warner, 2004)

You just don't say this stuff out loud! All right, we all have skeletons in the closet, but for heaven's sake -- well, for our neighbor's sake, I mean, for our own dignity...!

David Sedaris -- a writer, playwright and well-known NPR commentator -- apparently has no such rule, and so on Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim, his new audiobook, we are treated to some of the dishiest dirt ever openly spoken aloud.

Actually, I listened to about half of the first CD in this audiobook collection, in which Sedaris describes his freakishly dysfunctional family, before gently setting it aside with a lingering sense of unease. Was it duty to my job that drew me back, or just a powerful curiosity to find out what in the world this guy might say next?

Whatever the reason, I'm glad now I did. From a description of a first sleepover party and emerging sexual identity, through adulthood and apartment shopping in Europe (you wouldn't believe what he would have been willing to do to get Anne Frank's annex), this is a forthright and funny accounting of a life that, when summed up, is really not any different from any other, just better documented.

The family is weird, there's no doubt. I enjoyed laughing out loud to Sedaris's recollections of childhood with parents who never slept and who would ask "Shouldn't you be tired?" at 2 a.m., an hour when it seems more likely to be in danger of a spanking than a parent's curiosity. They don't get more normal with time, either. As an adult, one of his sisters tears up her floor, leaving it tar-papered, apparently as a decorating statement.

Not normal, I thought. But then I would hang up from a phone conversation with a member of my own family and realize this stuff wasn't so unfamiliar as I'd like to think.

In the end, I gave myself over to Sedaris's droning voice and wacky anecdotes. I carried the packet of CDs around from kitchen to office to car, and he became the background to whatever else I might be doing. When I finally reached the final CD in the set, I had it paused more than on play, not able to bear the idea of the stories ending. I managed to drag it out for several days, but finally, the end came.

"That's not the end!" I thought. It just can't be, because it doesn't wrap up anything. So, in thinking this, I am able to wait patiently (mostly) for Sedaris's next installment in the story of his life, convinced that he won't be able to keep from telling, anyway.

- Rambles
written by Katie Knapp
published 9 October 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.