Wednesday, February 24, 2010

David Sedaris: Bearing the Burden of our Embarrassment

In Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris uses a keen observing eye to point out some of the most hilarious, unseen and personal nooks and cranies of the American life he has lived. In the process, he indiscriminately draws in all self-conscious human beings by poviding a personal memoir with such exquisite detail that the reader can instantly recall moments of the human experience which are nearly, if not completely, universal. Many of these moments are mere passing thoughts that have crossed everyones mind, and should cause guilt and shame when they did not when we thought them. Some are the crazy idiosyncracies of life in any family.
In the first chapter, 'Us and Them', Sedaris relates a story which allows the reader to see an absolutely raw look into the mind of the author as a young boy. The chapter describes the family who lived next door to the Sedaris's, the Tomkeys. He recalls quotes from his own mouth in which he mercilessly pokes fun at his family's strange neighbors. He attributes many of their weirdness to the fact that Mr. Tomkey did not believe in television. Sedaris recognizes a common belief conditioned within the United States especially, that the social practices demonstrated on television are the only ones appropriate and that without television, one could not possible know how to properly act in public. In order to fully demonstrate how unreliable this childish narrator's claims actually are, Sedaris continues to implicate his young self as he describes his unwillingness to part with only a few pieces of his nearly vaulted Halloween candy in order to give some to the Tomkey family. Young Sedaris maintains his position until his mother forcefully confiscates some of candy as Sedaris was in the process of rating each piece by its specific value to him. He was about to pick out all of the worst pieces of candy from his bulging satchel to give to his neighbors, who had missed Halloween. In a supreme disply of tactlessness, Sedaris ridicules his neighbor's "dopey costume" as if he had never known that there was a problem at all. In the chapter, Sedaris waits until the last paragraph to allow his modern narrating voice to interject a judgemet, depicting his younger self as a glutonous pig, surrounded by trash on his bed. This mirrors the story telling stragegy that he says that his mother used on page 4. "The woman did not editorialize,"( Sedaris 4) he writes. The author Sedaris appears to have clear control over his witholding of editorial, the child Sedaris on the other hand, bleats out nearly every inappropriate thought that comes to mind.
All of these personal anecdotes provide material for the reader to connect to personally embarrassing moments from his or her past. These moments of unfiltered humanity cut to the core of humor and will never loose their comedic value until humans stop hording Halloween candy.

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