Picks and Pans Review: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

UPDATED 06/07/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/07/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

By David Sedaris

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A chain-smoking smart aleck, Sedaris explores the lunacy of his loved ones (and others) in a collection of mordant tales that can be laugh-out-loud funny. You'd think that the best-selling storyteller (Me Talk Pretty One Day) and NPR star would have run out of dish by now, but Sedaris has a few juicy ones left, and each is told with stand-up precision. In "Let It Snow," the author's frazzled mother locks her four kids out of the house on a no-school snow day—so he and his sibs persuade kid sis Tiffany to lie in the middle of the street to teach Mom a lesson: "It was really the perfect solution. With her out of the way, the rest of us would be more valuable and have a bit more room to spread out."

Sedaris can be ruthless about exposing his family's foibles (his sister Lisa is afraid of cell phones; Dad kicked him out of the house for being gay), but he also mocks himself and explores cross-cultural absurdities. Now living in France with his boyfriend, Sedaris recounts the story of their search for a Paris flat—a quest so dispiriting that, when they visit Amsterdam and happen upon the "adorable" triplex where Anne Frank lived, he finds himself thinking not of her brave words ("I still believe all people are really good at heart") but wondering, "Who do I have to knock off in order to get this apartment?" Sedaris junkies will know just how he means that.

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