[Book Review] One of the wittiest autobiographies

Naked by David Sedaris seems to be his attempt to sell the humor of his life. David manages to  create out of the saddest events, some reason to make us smile. While the attempt is worth the shot, the emotions around it are too intense to let a good laugh out. The detachment he tries to pose makes be question if I am reading his own life story. Parts of it seemed exaggerated to maintain the rhythm of his thoughts and keep the reader interested.

So why did I read it till the end? While there are 100s of authors who would write an autobiography, what makes David’s stand apart is the ease with which he himself looks at it not in the hindsight, trying to figure out what went wrong, as Elizabeth Gilbert or John Sculley , nor as an effort to educate or propagate an ideology, like Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi, but as a reality show he might have seen and decided to write about. He has the capacity to find fun and satire in his life situations. It is only when a particular emotion is touched the second time in some other context, that his true feeling about it is revealed. In one of the initial chapters, he is looking at his father as his mother’s American-culture loving, unwary, chastising husband. In another chapter, much later, he shows his own distress of being a son of that father. Initially his friend Veronica is a play and adventure mate. Later when his only means of contact with her is through exchange of mails, does his reminiscence and love for the friend shows up.

The satirical start

For the first 100 pages, David has written satire on his own family describing seemingly unavoidable but extremely unpleasant circumstances. These are mostly anecdotes from his childhood. I assume that this is the key in allowing him the freedom to relate the emotions he felt then and create some other details to knit a satire without seemingly hurting anyone. So even though he loses his grandmother or his entire family hates his father, it is adroitly put. There are a couple of chapters interspersed with the tragic confrontations, on hilarious situations his family finds itself in.

Sharing the real adventures

As David’s story grows into his teens, his tone gets more emotional as he unfolds his perception of the cause and effect of the events. While the immense struggle of his life is apparent from the very start, he seems unable to hide it behind his wit anymore. He introduces parts of his character just the way they might have dawned upon him. The story telling takes some scenes to laborious lengths that it seems more apt to skip a page or two. By the time I reached the end of book, it seemed less of a pull and more of a necessity to get to finish it. But overall, worth picking up!