When wondering what word you’ll find underlined next becomes your last remaining motivation for reading further, and when that scavenger hunt ending makes the fifty or so pages left a daunting, undesirable task, little else needs to be said to clarify your stance on said book.
Given my recent history with Neil Gaiman, I’m no stranger to ups and downs, but what we have here is considerably more drastic. My 11th grade English teacher’s reading of selected stories from Me Talk Pretty One Day had me and the rest of my class laughing in elongated unison from start to finish. When You Are Engulfed in Flames, while not living quite up to those standards, still displayed a man to whom the art of humor seemed second-nature.
With these last two books, however, I’ve gotten the opposite impression, that he has a humorous anecdote or two, as we all do, but not enough to make a career out of. Many would vehemently disagree with such an assertion; however, that’s the nature of comedy, which is why I cannot in good conscience advise you avoid this one.
Even if your tastes line up with mine, in that you laughed all the way throughMe Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames and were only convinced to trudge through the entirety of Barrel Fever through a sense of misplaced devotion, this could go so far as to supplant the first two in your eyes as it has for numerous others.
Because, to be blunt and honest, outside of wishing some of the essays hadn’t been cut short just as they appeared to be going somewhere worthwhile, I have but one complaint, and that’s that, for a book intended to humor you, I foundDress Your Family in Corduroy in Denim light on laughs.
Oh, for an essay or two, I saw snatches of the Sedaris I once knew, or at least thought I did, but they fast became lost in my memory amid the slew of other ones that, chances are, I wouldn’t have bothered with if not for my interest in discerning the meaning behind the words the previous reader had chosen to underline, and in compiling a list of said words so I could make it into a sort of project, writing a story in which I must use each of them.
Put more succinctly, though all writing is subjective, that’s more true of humor than anything else, to the extent that my own sense of humor isn’t even internally consistent itself, meaning that your only option is to read this book and see for yourself whether you like it or not.