David Sedaris uses a crafty variety of techniques to capture the reader’s interest in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. There are the obvious moments of hilarity, when he notes how he asks a cab driver questions he actually does not care about at all or when his sister tells him she will hide the key under the “Hour ott” (141). But then there are moments where the reader is unsure whether to laugh or cry. There are moments where an amusing, sarcastic comment is expected but a sad, reflective moment is revealed. These moments will quickly turn back to the funny ones, but the reader is left with a sense that all was not always entertainingly dysfunctional or absurdly amusing in Sedaris’s life. More importantly, the reader gets so comfortable with the writer that she begins to feel as if she knows him. This is not because of the embarrassing stories or in depth recounts of events in his life, but because of those moments where it is clear that there is a human aspect to this book that could be mistaken for fiction.
The chapter entitled “The End of the Affair” struck me in particular. It is a story about a time much later in his life than those he was previously relating, and it regards an event with him and his partner Hugh. The chapter is much shorter than any of the others and lacks even more humor than most of Sedaris’s touching moments. He and Hugh go see a movie, during which Hugh cries and Sedaris is bored. After the initial humor where Sedaris mocks his own boredom with the tragic love story, he reflects on why people go to see love stories and why they cry at them. He notes that perhaps it is because people wish that they could go back to those passionate beginnings and want to live vicariously through the characters. It is a truly revealing moment for Sedaris. He expresses his love for Hugh and opens up, almost shyly, about his feelings. He opens up only to the reader, not, in that moment, to Hugh. And though Sedaris himself acknowledged that not all of his stories were 100% accurate, I think we can safely assume that this one is. There is a sweetness that it would be almost cruel to question. I noticed that on the dedication page, David Sedaris wrote, “To Hugh.” This clarified the dedication for me. Perhaps it was something that could not sufficiently be expressed aloud, so Sedaris chose to bury it safely among humor. Perhaps that’s what all of his moments of pain and sadness do. They are apologies, reflections, or self-realizations that he can express almost like a public diary, and among the humor and embarrassing confessions, they are safe.