His newest anthology, the metaphorically titled Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, continues his sometimes dark, eternally funny, certainly lucrative and always relentless scouring of psyches, family histories and relationships ... His stories, while always plausibly crafted, accentuate the absurdities that seem to transpire around him with every breath and every step. But, beneath his sardonic wit, linguistically punchy one-liners and spirited eccentricities of individual characters, is an understated melancholy of fallibility, one that lingers under the occasional bluster and side-splitting laughs that make him a perennial bestseller and public radio fundraiser goldmine. This frail intricacy is easy to gloss over, especially when you're laughing so hard, but it's there, tucked away in even the funniest of stories.
It's that voice his fans find so addictive: nerdy on the surface, like a Cabbage Patch doll hitting puberty; underneath, cool and adamantine in its many frank appraisals ... As happiness and success are more in evidence, they find themselves balanced against a strange, new attitude of self-reckoning. The opening piece, 'Us and Them,' is written in that style of quasi-oracular coldness typically reserved for exposing the spiritual emptiness of the suburbs ... The voice must stay balanced: as if to compensate for his plush new life as a publishing-world rock star, Sedaris has perfected the quick, tidy, sermonical soul-search ... Should the balance between hapless Sedaris and rock star Sedaris get out of whack, that comfort proves harder and harder to retail as genuine angst.
Among the collection's most memorable essays is 'Rooster at the Hitchin' Post,' Sedaris' raucous rendition of his brother's wedding. Readers of Sedaris' previous works will remember Paul, the humorist's only male sibling, whose expletive-strewn tirades have earned him the nickname 'The Rooster' ... A housecleaning gig that takes a turn for the tawdry. A wealthy great-aunt with a mink coat and orthopedic shoes. It's all fodder for the delirious Sedaris, who dives headfirst into the pool of human weirdness, a wild, acid world where only the twisted dare tread.
Sedaris is at his best when he’s affectionately detailing his family’s severe eccentricities ... Yet there’s more to Sedaris than laughs. He’s a skillful prose stylist who writes sentences of great elegance, even as they amuse ... It’s easy to read these essays fast and go right for the joke. But to do so is to miss a rich layer of his work ... Sedaris hits a new emotional note in the essay 'Put a Lid on It,' which reveals more about the author than all of his other essays combined ... the best book of his career.
In his latest collection, Sedaris has found his heart ... The 27 essays here include his best and funniest writing yet. Here is Sedaris's family in all its odd glory ... 'You should look at yourself,' his mother says in one piece, as young Sedaris crams Halloween candy into his mouth rather than share it. He does what she says and then some, and what emerges is the deepest kind of humor, the human comedy.
...Sedaris once again aims his caustic wit at his family, friends and partner ... Sedaris has a talent for finding the oddest pockets in culture and behavior and, while turning them inside out, making what should be truly horrifying entertaining ... Most surprising about this book is how often Sedaris forgoes the sarcasm and seems genuinely hurt or affected ... Much more than a comedic memoir about a semi-dysfunctional family, Dress Your Family is as moving as it is funny, leaving the impression that with all Sedaris has revealed, plenty remains for him to explore.
Known for his self-deprecating wit and the harmlessly eccentric antics of his family, Sedaris can also pinch until it hurts in this collection of autobiographical vignettes ... Then he’ll hitch himself up and lacerate them once again, but not without affection even when the sting is strongest. Besides, his favorite target is himself: his obsessive-compulsiveness and his own membership in this company of oddfellows ... Sedaris’s sense of life’s absurdity is on full, fine display, as is his emotional body armor. Fortunately, he has plenty of both.