David Sedaris

Barrel Fever - Little, Brown and Company - 1994 - 196 pages

This first book by Sedaris consists of 12 "stories" (fiction) and 4 "essays" (non-fiction).  The stories are mostly bizarre, stream-of-consciousness, depressing tales about people who are total losers.  Recurring themes are abusive (or very strange) mother, alcoholism, homosexuality and a lazy-young-man-who-did-not-finish-college-and-cannot-get-a-good-job.  Although his writing style is often described as "satirical," I see it more as social commentary.  The best of the stories is "Barrel Fever" that is about alcoholism from the view of an alcoholic.  This is fiction but is also a powerful story about the disease that is often passed from parent to child.  Sedaris must have had some personal history with alcoholic family members to write such an account.  These early stories by Sedaris are well written but very depressing to me.  Each of them involves the tortured lives of fictional people.  And, there are so many people among us who exist in a constant state of desperation.

Of the essays, the best is "SantaLand Diaries" which is a true account of his work as a department store elf, a part-time job he had at the age of 33.  His account of his work days is hilarious and sad at the same time.  This essay and his reading of it on NPR radio are two factors that caused him to become a well-known writer and entertainer.  [JAM 10/12/2019]