Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Barrel Fever

Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays
© 1995 David Sedaris
208 pages

Three years ago I heard David Sedaris talk about his experience living in Paris and was immediately taken by his style of humor. I don't know how to articulate the Sedaris experience, except to say that he writes dryly about pathetic situations. Beginning with Me Talk Pretty One Day, I began reading his works of collected essays about his life. I believe I've only read two since I started this blog, Holidays on Ice and When You are Engulfed in Flames. Barrel Fever, Sedaris' first work, is much different from the volumes following it. While they consist chiefly of essays based on Sedaris' own life, Barrel Fever is dominated by first-person fictional essays and stories, two of which are repeated in Holidays on Ice owing to the Christmas theme. (They don't lose anything in repetition, especially not his SantaLand Diaries.)

The stories' narrators don't share much in common beyond being kooky and pathos-inspiring. I said before that the only way I know how to describe Sedaris' writing is to say that he writes dryly about pathetic situations, and the same is true of these stories. In one, a teenage suicide attempts -- through her suicide letter -- to instigate a lynch mob at her own funeral, including a CD containing "Music for Stoning". The humor here is dark, morbid, and more than a little perverse -- moreso than his biographical essays, I think, and not quite as funny. While I enjoy his fables (as read on This American Life), I didn't enjoy his stories here as much as I expected. The essays were typical of his essay collections, meaning that they made for disturbingly funny reading.

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