By David Sedaris (Agent site)
Format: Paperback, 196 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Release Date: June 1, 1995
I’ve heard of David Sedaris the humorist from time to time. A few of my friends of have read him and they say he writes super funny essays on just about anything. One even has a quote of his as one of her favorites. When I read a new author of science fiction or fantasy I like to start with their first book if I can. I didn’t even think about doing any differently with Sedaris when I picked up Barrel Fever.
Barrel Fever is divided into two sections. The first three-fourths is made up of short stories while the rest is of essays. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of the short stories. Each story is a stand-alone, unrelated to the others. They are told in first person narrative by a character that often has a pretty snarky and crooked look on life. I wasn’t sure if the stories were supposed to be satirical, comedic, dramatic, or anything at all. A few were funny but others were less so and they didn’t really seem to have any purpose.
Sedaris finally hit his stride in the essay section culminating with “Santaland Dairies”. There were only four essays, but they held my interest a lot better than the short stories had. “Santaland Dairies, in which the author works as an elf in Macy’s during Christmas season, was the funniest and best of the book. The author related his encounters during the most stressful time of the year in a sarcastic tone that appeals to the devil in all of us. I nearly pissed myself reading how he and a coworker re-envisioned Santaland as Satanland. The essays are clearly where Sedaris shines.
This book wasn’t what I expected and the rating will reflect that, however I realize that it's mostly my fault. In retrospect, I should have started with a different book. I would recommend this book for all Sedaris fans, although first-time readers might want to start with a more recent or well-known collection.