Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Naked" by David Sedaris

I say this a lot, but David Sedaris is honestly one of my favorite authors. His stories are always slightly off in the social sense, which is a quality that brings me a lot of joy. If something is weird even in the slightest, it piques my interest. I remember first falling in love with his stories when I read “The Santaland Diaries,” the story of his days working as an elf in Macy’s in New York. And there was a wealth of similar stories in Naked, a memoir of sorts.
In first reading some of the stories, I thought there was no way he wasn’t making these things up. In “A Plague of Tics,” he talks about all the nervous tics he had as a child. But these were no ordinary tics, these required him to lick doorknobs and fondle his neighbors’ lawn decorations. If one of my friends had told me this story, I definitely would not have believed it. But there’s something about Sedaris that convinced me that every idiosyncrasy of his is real. I also found in his memoir one of my personal favorites from Holidays On Ice, “Dinah the Christmas Whore.” The story recounts a winter night in his teenage years when he went with his sister to rescue one of her coworkers, a friendly ex-prostitute named Dinah. And I was pleased to find a story that kind of related to me, in that I have an ethnic family and so does Sedaris. “Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!” is the story of the Sedaris family taking care of their elderly Greek grandmother. She seemed nothing short of zany, and the only relative to mourn her death was really her son, Sedaris’ father. In a sadly comical way, it reminds me of the time when my great-grandmother died and most of my family was pleased because she was a bit crazy.

Something I was surprised to see though, were stories where Sedaris took a second to be serious about his life and his homosexuality. I’ll admit that I was expecting a mostly comical memoir, full of more stories about alcohol, nudists, and Vietnamese prostitute half-sisters. But he also makes important points about the importance of family and being open.

I’d say this book is definitely for a more mature audience because of the references to sex, prostitutes, alcohol, and other such concepts. The way he openly discusses his and his siblings’ recreational drug use as if it were just another detail in the background might have confused me had I been a younger reader.

Sedaris’ story “I Like Guys” talks about his first homosexual experience at summer camp in Greece. A friendship turns sexual for a second, and then the friends turn into mortal enemies. This story touches upon the tough time he and others possibly have coming to terms with their sexualities. He talks about his self-hatred, and his hypocrisy in laughing at the use of the word “faggot.” This story makes a really important point in showing people that they are not alone in the way they feel about their homosexuality, and that somehow society makes it tough to accept yourself as you are. What I took from the story is the message that it’s simply easier to accept yourself and others as they are instead of hating others for possessing the same qualities you hate about yourself. We all have our nervous tics and qualities that make us different, like Sedaris’ odd habit of speaking in Elizabethan English for a few months. But those differences are what make us so awesome as people, and all the variance in society makes for a better, more diverse world. Hating the differences between us serves no purpose, so let’s just cut to the chase and enjoy each others’ company.

Review by Soraya. Add your review of "Naked" in comments!

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