I've tipped this a couple times, but I did just finish Naked by David Sedaris. It's a book that tells his life story from grammar school through early 30-ish it seems. He wrote about his time in school when he had a series of habits (including licking light fixtures and others) that drove his parents and teachers nuts. He wrote about a string of unusual occupations that killed time.
I'll admit it upfront, David Sedaris is hilarious. I thought that going in and still do.
He writes about stuff that seems almost too surreal to be real. I wonder whether they are true but really don't care much because they are hilarious, including, but not limited to:
- A string of paraplegics that he befriended or lived with in school.
- A stint trying to sell jade clocks in the shape of Oregon, in Oregon
- A mom and sister that were obsessed with crime shows and, when they got bored of that, they tried to solve local crimes
- A never discovered family member who wiped their butt on the family towels (which were brown)
Every one of them is peppered with hilarious one liners and a biting direct tone to his storytelling, some of it so random that it's brilliant. At one point he wrote: "You know you're living in a small town when you can reach ninth grade without ever having seen a mime." It's his style and I love it.
Two final things stood out. First, the last 30 or so pages of the book told his story of going up to a nudist "colony" that, for me, just didn't fit. I have no idea what his intent was but I took away that it does feel unusual having lived in one frame of reference so long (clothed), yanked into another (nude), and ending back in the other (clothed) is disconcerting at a minimum, profound at a maximum. But it just doesn't fit for me.
Related to that, the second thing that stood out was the tender way Mr. Sedaris writes about his mother. I was deeply touched by his honesty in dealing with her terminal disease and death. He wrote about how difficult it was to consider not taking those precious moments he had available so many times as he grew up to ask more questions or just spend time with his mom. That time, once passed, never comes again.
As my parents get older, I am particularly aware of this. In fact, it's a bit vexing because not only am I aware of it, I also believe I'm not doing enough about it. Maybe it's because of how much I already am fearful of how I will continue after I lose them. It's hard to describe, but I know the closer I get to them (and I'm very close to both of them and love them very much and feel it in return) perhaps I'm feeling more attached to them and that's the tricky part.
For me, reading the part about his mom, was a huge shift because the book to that point looked at his difficulties through the lens of laughter. This part of the book had me weeping. Right after this part, by the way, was the nude part. I was satisfied with the book without the Naked part, but then again, how could he have called it Naked without it.
Please do yourself a favor, if you've never read a book by David Sedaris, please treat yourself to it. He is a genius.