David Sedaris's deadpan delivery is the perfect foil to the bizarre in his latest collection of essays, and it's hard to imagine another reader recounting these unlikely anecdotes. Most of the readings were recorded in a Paris studio, although some live performances are interspersed, complete with an appreciative live audience. But their easy responses, sometimes as automatic as a television sitcom's laugh track, are often more distracting than encouraging. Listeners accustomed to Sedaris's stories on Public Radio International's "This American Life" will find these readings, about his family, his early adult life, living in France and attempting to learn the language, a little less exuberant, a little more thoughtful, suffering only, perhaps, from the absence of producer Ira Glass's masterful editorial hand. The tone does seem fitting, though, for the essays slide in and out of fleeting sadness, even as they mock and self-deprecate and aim for irony. Sedaris is at his worst when glib, and his least successful essays are those that rant against modern life: New York restaurants, computers. He is at his best when he's describing the absurdity of childhood, moments so unexpectedly strange and yet recognizable, like Sedaris's boyhood dream of performing a one-man show as Billie Holiday singing commercial jingles (and he provides pitch-perfect renditions), that they prompt gleeful, giddy laughter. J.M.D. [Published: JUN/JUL 00]
Trade Ed. Time Warner AudioBooks 2000
CS ISBN $24.98 Four cassettes
CD ISBN $29.98 Five CDs
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