David Sedaris' first book, "Barrel Fever," gives the clearest distinction between a story and an essay that I have ever seen. I own a copy of Sedaris' most recent work, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim," and I thought "Barrel Fever" would be much the same: Hilarious tales of Sedaris' real life, from his childhood in suburban North Carolina to his present-day life as a witty ex-pat in Paris. But the majority of "Barrel Fever" is "stories." That is to say, fiction. Hilarious fiction, yes, but more raucous, more raw, than his later works. Instead of Sedaris being himself, he is a teenaged girl, directing her own funeral service from beyond the grave. Or, he becomes a harried housewife, telling the world of her family's bizarre woes through an overly cheerful!!! Christmas letter. Newcomers should be able to enjoy his writing style, but those familiar with his work also will be able to recognize the true-to-life facts hiding behind the fiction. The book ends with the very funny "SantaLand Diaries" essay -- the reading of which on National Public Radio brought Sedaris his first measure of public fame. All in all, "Barrel Fever" was a great and very pleasant surprise to this Sedaris fan.
I am a huge David Sadaris fan, but for some reason this book was a bit over-the-top for me. I love his sense of humor, but the stories in this book were darker than those in "Me Talk PRetty One Day" and "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim". Perhaps I am not a "true fan" if I didn't like this. Nevertheless, I didn't finish it.
Barrel Fever is divided into two parts. The "Stories" section is filled with odd, fictional tales of different characters, and the "Essays" sections gets back to the non-fiction tales of Sedaris' own life that I know and love.
The essays are wonderful, in particular "SantaLand Diaries" because nothing can compare to Sedaris' wit and perspective on his own experiences.
Sedaris has a wacky sense of humor and is a master of wordology...I loved all of the essays I heard previously (am listening to them one at a time on audio) but this collection was far less appealing. Written in his earlier days, he 'invents' autobiography, naming his sisters "Faith, Hope and Charity" just for the irony...Seems like he is trying too hard to be funny. When measured against his later, much more wonderful work, it just falls flat. Still, he's a genius who's unafraid to test the limits of creativity. If that appeals to you, go for it!
David Sedaris's truths is so much better than his fiction. Unfortunately 3/4 of this book are fictional work which try so hard to be shocking than they aren't that great. The last few stories which are based on his real life are hysterical. I think his perception of the world around him is Sedaris at his best. Although Santaland Diaries is one of his best stories ever - I would recommend some of his later books before Barrel Fever (especially Me Talk Pretty Someday)
The only thing more pleasurable than reading a David Sedaris book is hearing him read it! Here, along with his sister, Amy Sedaris, he weaves words and thoughts together in ways that are wickedly funny and insightful.
Even though this is one of David Sedaris's earliest offerings, I did not read it first. I came onto Sedaris's sardonic wit through the fantastic essay collection "Me Talk Pretty One Day." After laughing my way through those 200 plus pages I was hungry for more by the author. Being a completest, I usually read everything I can by authors that I enjoy.
Coming from the high that was "Me Talk Pretty..." I was a little put off by "Barrel Fever," the next title I attempted from the author. Where as "Pretty" contains mostly true stories about Sedaris's life, the first section of Barrel Fever (and the largest chunk of the book) was made up of fictional essays. The essays are still hilarious and after having re-read them since, they hold up as some of the craziest writing that I've read to date. It's clear that the earlier Sedaris was a bit more daring and willing to go for some shock value within his writing.
In fact, upon re-reading Barrel Fever, I find the true stories, which make up the second half of the book to be almost lackluster compared to the zany writing up front.
Overall, a solid collection of stories, but not his strongest work, in my opinion. Will you laugh while reading it? Oh, yes you will. Will you remember these stories after checking out some of his other works? Eh, it's not likely.
If you enjoy the first half of Barrel Fever, then I recommend following this book with Sedaris's "Holidays on Ice" which also contains several essays that are just... well... out there.
I'm not overly fond of David Sedaris' short stories which occupy the first part of this book, but the chapter "SantaLand Diaries," about his experience as a Macy's elf is one of the funniest things that I have ever read. I laughed until I cried.
I didn't really like it, it's in a much earlier, still evolving Sedaris style that's a little immature for me. I can see he's finding his pace and voice. It just doesn't quite grab me like his later work. Love him madly, the further late you get. He's brilliant. Just keep going, this one's not like the others.
I ordered this book because of its author and didn't bother to read the description, so I didn't know that most of the stories were fictional pieces. I tried reading the essays, but ended up skipping over them to get to David's "real stories". With a childhood like Sedaris's, who needs to write fiction?
A collection of stories and essays by humorist and NPR commentator David Sedaris based upon his own experiences and the hidden perversity that can be found in Anytown, U.S.A. Here are images and blasphemies that nice people don't dare look at--blatantly exposed and told with the clear, casual voice of intimate knowledge. Sedaris' humor is born of compassion and his tales range from the sharing of cheery Christmas letters featuring infanticide, to experiences of the Gay and Famous (Charlton Heston and Elizabeth Dole, for example), to the lives of siblings named Hope, Faith, Charity and Adolph and to alcoholics and chain smokers you can laugh with.