Picks and Pans Review: Naked
These days Sedaris is a New York City playwright and frequent commentator for National Public Radio, but in past lives he has been a fruit picker, paint stripper and one of Santa's elves at Macy's. He's also a smartass born and raised, as he proved in his sassy 1994 debut, Barrel Fever. Sedaris is all grown up in this brilliant new collection of autobiographical essays, but he has lost none of his mordant edge.
Revisiting his childhood—spent largely in the South—Sedaris recounts a summer he spent in Greece ("Camp lasted a month, during which time I never once had a bowel movement") and the time he discovered Shakespeare and tried to introduce Elizabethan speech into rural North Carolina ("Be there not garments to launder and iron free of turbulence?" he asks his mother. "Get thee to work, damnable lady!").
Sedaris spares no details about his dysfunctional family or his own harebrained odysseys (including shoplifting for quadriplegic friends and his stay at a nudist colony). But there's wisdom in these stories—fables, really, with their touching, cautionary lessons at the end (his rueful account of his mother's death from lung cancer is the book's most moving). For all the laughs, Sedaris lays himself bare, faults and all. (Little Brown, $21.95)