DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM

Sedaris’s sense of life’s absurdity is on full, fine display, as is his emotional body armor. Fortunately, he has plenty of...

Known for his self-deprecating wit and the harmlessly eccentric antics of his family, Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day, 2000, etc.) can also pinch until it hurts in this collection of autobiographical vignettes.

Once again we are treated to the author’s gift for deadpan humor, especially when poking fun at his family and neighbors. He draws some of the material from his youth, like the portrait of the folks across the street who didn’t own a TV (“What must it be like to be so ignorant and alone?” he wonders) and went trick-or-treating on November first. Or the story of the time his mother, after a fifth snow day in a row, chucked all the Sedaris kids out the door and locked it. To get back in, the older kids devised a plan wherein the youngest, affection-hungry Tiffany, would be hit by a car: “Her eagerness to please is absolute and naked. When we ask her to lie in the middle of the street, her only question was ‘Where?’ ” Some of the tales cover more recent incidents, such as his sister’s retrieval of a turkey from a garbage can; when Sedaris beards her about it, she responds, “Listen to you. If it didn’t come from Balducci’s, if it wasn’t raised on polenta and wild baby acorns, it has to be dangerous.” But family members’ square-peggedness is more than a little pathetic, and the fact that they are fodder for his stories doesn’t sit easy with Sedaris. He’ll quip, “Your life, your privacy, your occasional sorrow—it’s not like you're going to do anything with it,” as guilt pokes its nose around the corner of the page. 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.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-316-14346-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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