Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris (Audio Book)

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 Winner of 2005 Audie Award for Humor

I hadn’t read anything by David Sedaris before, but had heard his name mentioned so many times that I thought I should give him a try. I had also heard that he is one of the few authors able to successfully read his own books and so I decided to try the audio version of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Unfortunately humor is a very personal thing and I don’t think David Sedaris and I find the same things funny.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is a series of short stories about family life. They contain many perceptive observations about childhood relationships and the difficulties of growing up, but unfortunately I didn’t find them at all amusing. David Sedaris reads the book in such a dry, dead-pan voice that I actually found it difficult to concentrate on what he was saying. His monotonous tone bored me and I have a feeling I’d have enjoyed the book much more if I’d read it. This was emphasised when I went to look for quotes from the book  (it is really hard to get quotes when listening to a book) and I actually found myself laughing at some of the quotes on Good Reads. In fact I laughed more times reading that page of quotes than I did in the 6.5 hours I spent listening to the book.

“He took a sip of my father’s weak coffee and spit it back into the mug. “This shit’s like making love in a canoe.”
“Excuse me?”
“It’s fucking near water.”

The only time I actually laughed when listening to the audio was during disc 4. I had a double-take moment when I put this into my CD player as the tone changed completely. David Sedaris launched into a comedy routine which I found quite funny, but I was very confused. It seemed to have no connection to the story that went before it and I actually took the CD out to check that they hadn’t accidentally sent me the wrong disc. Unfortunately the CD returned to the same dull monologue after just a tantalising glimpse of his comedy skills and I ploughed on to the end of the book (disc 5) without being rewarded with any more comedy routines.

I might be tempted to try another of his books in the future, but next time I’ll stick to physical copies.

 (4 stars for start of disc 4)

Most people seem to love this book:

Is there anything funnier than having David Sedaris read his own books to you? Not much, I’m thinking. Books N’ Border Collies

…it didn’t really have the ‘wow’ for me that it does for others. A Good Stopping Point

David Sedaris is hilarious and had me laughing out loud several times. She Treads Softly

Do you think I’d enjoy any of his other books?


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37 Comments

  1. John Braine says:

    I’ve listened to so many David Sedaris books now that I couldn’t tell you which story came from which book. So I’d say if you didn’t like this, you might not like any, they’re pretty interchangeable and similar. For a while there I listened to a Sedaris book in between every other novel.

    My first was ‘Me talk pretty some day’ which starts off with, and is loosely based around his mild speech impediment and his voice in general, so you can see how that as a first listen might somewhat enamour you to the sound of his voice.

    I like his droll delivery and find him very funny to listen to once I got into the rhythm – but funnily enough I usually only laugh out loud at the chapters read in front of a live audience, which yes are much more like stand up comedy and you can’t help laugh with the audience at times.

    Though there’s a story in ‘When You Are Engulfed in Flames’ aboard a flight where he coughs a sweet into his neighbours lap that had me in stitches.

    1. Jackie says:

      John, Thank you for letting me know that all the books are similar in style. I may try one in print and see if I find the first few pages funny. If not then it sounds as though Sedaris just isn’t for me.

  2. Bibliophile by the Sea says:

    Jackie…this was actually one of his best audio books IMO, so perhaps his humor (often dry) is just not for you??

    1. Jackie says:

      Bibliophile by the Sea, Yes. I think his humor is a bit too dry for me :-(

  3. Teresa says:

    Interesting that you think you’d like him better in print. I find Sedaris dull in print, but hilarious on audio. There’s something about his deadpan style that absolutely cracks me up.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I find that his style takes the humor out of the words – it is amazing how different we all are :-)

  4. Alex says:

    I read that one and Me Talk Pretty One Day and my problem was the same as I had with Running With Scissors: he’s trying to be funny, but most I though his childhood memories were sad.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, Yes. I could recognise several points where he was trying to be funny, but the jokes fell flat for me. I’m afraid that none of the stories made me feel sad either – I was unmoved by it :-(

      1. Noemy says:

        I recommend you to read the books, it’s totally different, I’ve loved each and every book… Naked, When you are Engulfed in flames, and Dress your family, are pretty good, I couldn’t stop laughing nor reading the books. :)

  5. Steph says:

    I’ve heard such great things about David Sedaris, but I’ve not read any of his books. I agree that humor is very personal, and that the way it is delivered can have a huge influence as well. I do know that I find Sedaris’s voice insanely annoying, so if I do ever think to try his stuff one day, I will certainly read the printed copy!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I hadn’t heard Sedaris speak before so was unaware of what he sounded like, but I think if you find his voice annoying then you should ensure you stick to his printed words.

  6. Carolyn says:

    I recommend the performance cd: David Sedaris: Live For Your Listening Pleasure [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]
    David Sedaris (Author, Reader). He is in several different locations giving various readings. I especially liked the one about the animal beauty shop. I was glad to see he wrote a whole book on the animal personalities and waiting to get my hand on a copy of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary that just came out in September. He and Chelsea Handler are aquired tastes, but sometime I just need to laugh.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carolyn, Thanks for recommending Live For Your Listening Pleasure – that sounds exactly like the stand-up section I loved. It might be a while before I try Sedaris again, but I will be willing to give that one a try. :-)

  7. JoAnn says:

    You’re absolutely right when you say humor is a personal thing. I love Sedaris on audio… have literally had tears rolling down my face while driving, but I know he’s not for everyone. Interesting that you though he was funnier in print. I’ve listened to several of his books and think I can safely say if you didn’t care for this one, you’re not going to like the others much either :-(

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, Have you read Live For Your Listening Pleasure? It sounds as though I might enjoy that one, but I’m a bit confused now. Sedaris seems to divide opinion and I have no idea whether I’ll enjoy his other books. I guess I’ll just have to try one and see who is right :-)

      1. JoAnn says:

        No, I haven’t read that one and am not familiar with it. Try it! Will be curious to see what you think. Sedaris gave a live show in my city last year. I took my daughter (she read one of his books for her creative writing class)… it was quite a memorable evening.

        1. Jackie says:

          JoAnn, I would go and see Sedaris if given the chance – I’m sure he would be very interesting ;-)

  8. Sandy says:

    I just finished this audio, but haven’t written the review yet! I definitely would admit that this is not one of his best books, but I still laughed anyway. You didn’t find his bit about the difference between the different Santa Clauses funny?! OMG, I almost peed. I also really liked his story about shoving all of his Halloween candy in his mouth so the weirdos next door didn’t get any. Well, I guess his humor is something you either love or hate. Consider me in the love column!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, The bit about Christmas was the only part I actually found funny. I thought that was a very original section and I did laugh out loud. Unfortunately the rest of the book (including the Halloween bit) failed to tickle me. I look forward to reading your review and seeing why you loved it so much :-)

  9. Oh no! I’m so disappointed that you didn’t enjoy your first Sedaris experience (pretty sure I was one of the people pushing him on you). I don’t find anything wrong with his reading style, but I know listening to the audio never had me laughing out loud like reading did – listening to someone read is just always a tad boring for me, and I always wish I could speed up and slow down like I do when I’m actually reading.

    I also recommend sticking to the book, and giving When You Are Engulfed in Flames a try. If you don’t laugh at all, then he’s probably just not for you.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lija, It is good to know I’m not alone in finding the text funnier than the audio book. I’ll take your advice (although that might not be for a few years ;-) ) Hopefully I’ll enjoy Engulfed in Flames a bit more.

  10. Christy says:

    Ooh, and I too had been told that he was better in audio, after my own lukewarm reaction to this very book (thanks for the link, btw.) I still think I’ll try him in audio, but I’ll know I’m not alone if I don’t care for it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christ, I hope that you enjoy your second Sedaris experience a bit more, but as you say, it is good to know you are not alone :-)

  11. Violet says:

    I liked this book because I found it interesting and a little funny. But I’ve heard this is not one of his best books. I’m going to try more of his work though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, I look forward to finding out if you enjoy any of his other books more. :-)

  12. Beth F says:

    I haven’t read or listened to Sedaris yet — but everyone loves him, so I’m looking forward to trying him out one day. So sorry this didn’t work for you.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I hope that you enjoy your first Sedaris experience more than I did.

  13. Amy says:

    Sedaris humour isn’t really my brand of humour, but I think you are right that the books would be better than the audio. I read a book and thought it was alright.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, It doesn’t sound as though you think I’ll enjoy his books either. I guess there is only one way to find out, but I’m in no rush :-)

  14. Iris says:

    Hm.. I bought a copy of this book for my boyfriend about a year ago. He hasn’t read it yet. I hope he enjoys it, but it does sound like David Sedaris has a particular style of humour. I could see how such books might work better in print than in audio, but I am not an expert, since I hardly listen to audiobooks.

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, I don’t listen to that many audio books, but it is very hard to find good ones :-( Hopefully my next one will be more enjoyable.

  15. Birdy says:

    Wonderful blog you have here! I see that you have Haweswater lined up in your TBR. I strongly recommend you read it soon, it’s a thoroughly delightful book. The review is there over at my blog if you like to read :)

    I will keep visiting, do keep up the good work! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Birdy. Thank you for the kind words. After your comment I decided to start Haweswater. I’m sure I’ll love it :-)

  16. Jenny says:

    I think David Sedaris can be very, very funny, but I hate the way his voice sounds. I think I’d have the exact same problem with this. When I read Me Talk Pretty One Day, there were sections where I couldn’t stop laughing; and when I heard David Sedaris speak once, I didn’t have the same reaction at all.

  17. Erin says:

    That’s really interesting, I think you’re the first person I’ve heard from who prefers to read Sedaris in print! I’ve always read him in print, until I recently listened to When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I loved the way Sedaris read–he reminds me exactly of a history teacher I had in high school who had that same deadpan style but was very funny! Isn’t it interesting how some things work for some people but not at all for others?

    I completely agree that it’s tough to catch quotes when you’re listening to a book. It’s one of the only downsides to listening over reading that I’ve found.

  18. veronica says:

    i love david sedaris, especially when he is the one reading it, but i can definitely see that his humor is not for everyone. it’s very dry and somewhat cynical. and very mocking, whether of himself or others. anyway, i haven’t read this one, but i’d reccomend “santaland diaries,” which is about his misadventures while working as an elf at macy’s during christmas.

  19. Emily says:

    I’m usually a big David Sedaris fan, but I admit, sometimes I don’t find his stories funny at all. Try Me Talk Pretty One Day – it’s my favorite by far. I made the mistake of eating my lunch while reading it and nearly choked on my food I was laughing so hard!

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