Reviews for The Best Of Me

by David Sedaris

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In his introduction to the first best-of compilation of his work, Sedaris writes that it's impossible to know if he'd like his own writing if he were someone else; he would like, though, "that so much of it has to do with family." Of the nearly 50 career-spanning stories and essays gathered here, previously published in Barrel Fever (1994), Calypso (2018), one of Sedaris' seven intervening books, or the New Yorker, later pieces especially bring family into poignant focus. Sedaris vacations with his siblings, ruminates on his mother's alcoholism, copes with his estranged younger sister's death, and visits his severely diminished father at the end of his life. Sedaris' distinctive voice is one of the delights of his work, and he embodies his childhood self and others—a theater critic eviscerating an elementary-school play; an Irish Setter who finally understands the pressures of monogamy—with ease. Readable is one thing Sedaris' work very enjoyably is; re-readable is another. Longtime fans are used to reading Sedaris in pieces, but the encompassing effect of his writing—sardonic, piercing, humorous, and humane—grows exponentially here.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A welcome greatest-hits package from Sedaris. It’s not easy to pick out fact from fiction in the author’s sidelong takes on family, travel, relationships, and other topics. He tends toward the archly droll in either genre, both well represented in this gathering, always with a perfectly formed crystallization of our various embarrassments and discomforts. An example is a set piece that comes fairly early in the anthology: the achingly funny “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” with its spot-on reminiscence of taking a French class with a disdainful instructor, a roomful of clueless but cheerful students, and Sedaris himself, who mangles the language gloriously, finally coming to understand his teacher’s baleful utterances (“Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section”) without being able to reply in any way that does not destroy the language of Voltaire and Proust. Sedaris’ register ranges from doggerel to deeply soulful, as when he reflects on the death of a beloved sibling and its effects on a family that has been too often portrayed as dysfunctional when it’s really just odd: “The word,” he writes, “is overused….My father hoarding food inside my sister’s vagina would be dysfunctional. His hoarding it beneath the bathroom sink, as he is wont to do, is, at best, quirky and at worst unsanitary.” There’s not a dud in the mix, though Sedaris is always at his best when he’s both making fun of himself and satirizing some larger social trend (of dog-crazy people, for instance: “They’re the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, ‘A black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe’ ”). It’s a lovely mélange by a modern Mark Twain who is always willing to set himself up as a shlemiel in the interest of a good yarn. One of the funniest—and truest—books in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
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With ten books in his pocket, Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) has established a reputation as one of the world's funniest living writers. The best pieces in this compilation are gems of smart prose. For instance, "Christmas Means Giving," offers a riff on gated community complacency: two families compete at Christmas to give away more than their neighbor. At first, it's gifts to the needy—food, material objects—but it escalates to giving away one's children and ends with donating one's body parts. The piece is savagely funny but packs a moral punch. The best of Sedaris's writings revolve around his notoriously dysfunctional family. Sedaris mines their quirks for humor, but the description of their odd doings, often hilarious, is unvaryingly human. Regardless of the his their idiosyncrasies, Sedaris loves his family and is thankful to be connected to them. He writes about them out of a well of humanness that makes them real and these pieces far from trivial. Combine that with a razor-sharp wit and a penchant for bons mots and you have a writer worth savoring. VERDICT This collection of favorite and beloved writings by an author with legions of fans is warm, witty, and guaranteed to please longtime and new readers alike.—David Keymer, Cleveland


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Sedaris’s brilliant knack for observational humor is on full display in this terrific retrospective essay collection (after Calypso). Culled from his previously published volumes and magazine pieces, this work focuses on the dynamics among the six Sedaris siblings and their parents (“I might reinvent myself to strangers, but to this day, as far as my family is concerned, I’m still the one most likely to set your house on fire,” he admits). Whether searching for the perfect Paris apartment with his partner, Hugh, recalling long-ago family vacations, or describing his sister Amy’s freaky encounter with a psychic, Sedaris finds ample fodder for his keen satiric sense in his life and the lives of those around him. Sedaris can take even the most serious subject—such as his sister Tiffany’s suicide—and evoke both empathy and laughter. He can also be just plain hilarious, as in “Jesus Shaves,” about a discussion of cultural differences using the limited vocabulary available to students in a beginner French class (“The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate”). This is the perfect introduction for the uninitiated, while Sedaris’s fans will enjoy rediscovering old favorites. Agent: Cristina Concepcion, Don Congdon Assoc. (Nov.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A welcome greatest-hits package from Sedaris.Its not easy to pick out fact from fiction in the authors sidelong takes on family, travel, relationships, and other topics. He tends toward the archly droll in either genre, both well represented in this gathering, always with a perfectly formed crystallization of our various embarrassments and discomforts. An example is a set piece that comes fairly early in the anthology: the achingly funny Me Talk Pretty One Day, with its spot-on reminiscence of taking a French class with a disdainful instructor, a roomful of clueless but cheerful students, and Sedaris himself, who mangles the language gloriously, finally coming to understand his teachers baleful utterances (Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section) without being able to reply in any way that does not destroy the language of Voltaire and Proust. Sedaris register ranges from doggerel to deeply soulful, as when he reflects on the death of a beloved sibling and its effects on a family that has been too often portrayed as dysfunctional when its really just odd: The word, he writes, is overused.My father hoarding food inside my sisters vagina would be dysfunctional. His hoarding it beneath the bathroom sink, as he is wont to do, is, at best, quirky and at worst unsanitary. Theres not a dud in the mix, though Sedaris is always at his best when hes both making fun of himself and satirizing some larger social trend (of dog-crazy people, for instance: Theyre the ones who, when asked if they have children, are likely to answer, A black Lab and a sheltie-beagle mix named Tuckahoe ). Its a lovely mlange by a modern Mark Twain who is always willing to set himself up as a shlemiel in the interest of a good yarn.One of the funniestand truestbooks in recent memory and a must-have for fans of the poet laureate of human foibles. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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