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Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays

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In David Sedaris’s world, no one is safe and no cow is sacred. A manic cross between Mark Leyner, Fran Lebowitz, and the National Enquirer, Sedaris’s collection of essays is a rollicking tour through the national Zeitgeist: a do-it-yourself suburban dad saves money by performing home surgery; a man who is loved too much flees the heavyweight champion of the world; a teenage suicide tries to incite a lynch mob at her funeral; a bitter Santa abuses the elves.

David Sedaris made his debut on NPR’s Morning Edition with “SantaLand Diaries”, recounting his strange-but-true experiences as an elf at Macy’s, and soon became one of the show’s most popular commentators. With a perfect eye and a voice infused with as much empathy as wit, Sedaris writes stories and essays that target the soulful ridiculousness of our behavior. Barrel Fever is like a blind date with modern life, and anything can happen.

Parade --
Music for lovers --
The last you'll hear from me --
My manuscript --
Firestone --
We get along --
Glen's homophobia newsletter vol. 3, no. 2 --
Don's story --
Season's greeting to our friends and family!!! --
Jamboree --
After Malison --
Barrel fever --
Diary of a smoker --
Giantess --
The curly kind --
SantaLand diaries

196 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1994

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About the author

David Sedaris

85 books24.2k followers
David Sedaris is a Grammy Award-nominated American humorist and radio contributor.

Sedaris came to prominence in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "SantaLand Diaries." He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. Each of his four subsequent essay collections, Naked (1997), Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004), and When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008) have become New York Times Best Sellers.

As of 2008, his books have collectively sold seven million copies. Much of Sedaris' humor is autobiographical and self-deprecating, and it often concerns his family life, his middle class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, Greek heritage, various jobs, education, drug use, homosexuality, and his life in France with his partner, Hugh Hamrick.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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5 stars
14,721 (27%)
4 stars
19,245 (35%)
3 stars
14,984 (27%)
2 stars
3,944 (7%)
1 star
1,136 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,885 reviews
Profile Image for Minnie Romanovich.
48 reviews23 followers
June 12, 2007
Another "bestseller" from the humorist; I bought this in blind faith only because it was a Sedaris. However, I admit I was a tad disappointed. In some of the essays, it felt like he was trying too hard to be funny; the stories seemed to lack the punch found in "Naked," "Me Talk Pretty One Day," or "Holidays on Ice."

If you must read this, borrow it from a library or buy it used. It works well as a paper-weight.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,415 reviews7,423 followers
July 26, 2018
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

This summer the bridge that makes my commute easy breezy and beautiful like a Cover Girl commercial is undergoing construction which has resulted in a Kelly that pretty much looks like this while trying to make her way into the city . . . . .

I decided for my own mental health maybe I should try an audio book, and what better person to choose than my beloved David. What can I say?????

Barrel Fever proved that I am most definitely an “essays” rather than a “stories” type of gal and earns a paltry 3 Stars due to that fact. However, mediocre Sedaris is still waaaaaaaay better than no Sedaris at all – and also better than the alternative . . . . .

Happy commuting, everyone : )

Profile Image for Calista.
3,803 reviews31.2k followers
May 15, 2018
This is not my favorite book of David's, but this had moments that cracked me up. He was telling a story where the father tried in vein to have an athlete in the family and he gave the son a football and that son said all he wanted to do was 'bottle and diaper it.' I nearly lost it. I was on the floor.

My second favorite story was about his youngest brother who is a foul mouth with a high pitched voice. If he likes you he will only call you 'bitch' or 'motherfucker'. The best part is he even says that to his dad. That story was hilarious. The first few stories were the best and I didn't think the stories at the end produced the same tickle effect.

Still, I had fun reading these stories. I am amused. David is quite witty.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
462 reviews288 followers
March 6, 2017
The first couple of short stories didn't hit the mark for me so I was a little concerned going in to what I had actually signed up for, but going forward I started to comprehend the authors voice and it fell into place for me, which makes rating this one hard.
Although not all the essays worked for me, I gather from other reviews this maybe isn't his finest work but I can see some glimpses of genius at play. His style is distinct however with many of his characters being mean spirited, down and out seedy characters who most of them happen to be gay, making it quite obvious what the author's orientation is, not that that matters at all in any way, but most of these characters he chooses to portray here are pretty vile leaving a bad taste in my mouth, but luckily that didn't turn me off, so I'm happy to see what else he has to offer and will be keen to explore his later publications as I enjoyed his wicked acerbic characterisations and observations
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,112 reviews1,384 followers
May 16, 2018
As just about every other reviewer has noted, the tone of this is pretty different from Sedaris's subsequent work that's earned him so much adoration. It's darker, more misanthropic, occasionally shocking. But if you can resist comparing this to later books, it stands on its own. I thought some of these stories (particularly "Don's Story") were hilarious, and they were definitely unlike any other short stories I'd read—you can see why this collection made such a big impact on critics when it was released. My one complaint is that the main characters' voices in most of the stories were very similar, so it got a little samey after a while. But finishing with a few essays was a good idea. You can't really think poorly of any book that ends with "Santaland Diaries."
Profile Image for باقر هاشمی.
Author 1 book240 followers
January 1, 2019
اولین کاری بود که از سداریس خوندم. بسیار لذّت بردم از خوندن داستانهای کسی از بچگی یادگرفته بود به چیزها طور دیگه ای نگاه کنه. داستان ها اونقدر بوی شخصی بودنمیدادن که انگار خاطرات نویسنده اند، اما وقتی یک داستان تمام می شد و داستان بعدی رو شروع می کردم به یک دنیای متفاوت دیگه می رفتم. ترجمه ی کتاب هم واقعاً خوب بود.
Profile Image for Dagio_maya .
895 reviews255 followers
August 24, 2017
Che immane fatica!
Sì alla fine ci sono arrivata: ma che fatica!
Chi ti ha obbligata (potreste chiedermi)?
Un obbligo con me stessa dato che ho accettato di giocare al gioco “adotta un autore”. Guarda che ...fortunella sono che la ruota della fortuna mi fa adottare tale Sedaris mai sentito nominare.
Dato che difficilmente mi tiro indietro (capatosta!!!) .....eccomi, e questo è anche il secondo libro che leggo!
Per tutta la lettura mi sono immaginata una di quelle scene da (tele)film americano dove il protagonista si posiziona davanti ad un pubblico annoiato in un bar di periferia e cerca di "scaldarlo" con battute a raffica. Ridono in due: lui e la moglie che sta in prima fila.
Almeno in "Me parlare bello un giorno" c'era un filo conduttore basato su alcune sue esperienze e sulla sua strampalata famiglia.
Visto il titolo, qui ti aspetti che il tema sia il tabagismo; ridicolizzato, ironizzato come Sedaris sa fare; invece, salta di palo in frasca tra l'altro inventando delle cose assurde che non reggono proprio.
L'idea che mi sono fatta è che dopo il grande successo radiofonico come comico intrattenitore si sia voluto approfittare per far cassa a tutti i costi. Il risultato è qualcosa di veramente forzato!!
Un "No, grazie" ripetuto all'infinito!!!

Profile Image for Andrea.
149 reviews10 followers
April 26, 2008
I loved Me Talk Pretty One Day, but Barrel Fever was painful. The audiobook is read by the author with a few vocal appearances from his sister, Amy Sedaris.... I guess I was just expecting more from them than a tangled mess of sub par short stories - all of which seem to feature the same narcissistic, celebrity obsessed, accident prone, substance abusing, deadbeat narrator who happens to be gay. It's like a terrible version of Curb Your Enthusiam...in which the narrator is plugged into ridiculous and awkward scenarios and the character developement stops somewhere between hopeless dejection and bitterness. Stay away. Run Away.
Profile Image for Anthony Chavez.
121 reviews69 followers
May 22, 2012
When I purchased this at Beer's Books in Sacramento I had no idea it was Sedaris' debut book, I just knew that he was a hilarious guy and the cover just made me laugh, I loved it and had to buy it.

I sort of went in with high hopes, a few people I know had recently seen him live and said he was great. "Barrel Fever" is a collection of short stories and essays, and for a debut collection it was not bad. None of the stories are bad, but they're not amazingly great either; however, I found the four essays that conclude this book much more engaging than the short stories that take up the majority of the book. This is not to say that the short stories are bad, just that they are more forgettable and don't quite match up to the quality of the essays.

Sedaris often invites us to laugh at ourselves, and he does so in a peculiar way that leaves his audience gasping for breath. I will say, this collection would have received a two star rating if not for 1 story and 1 essay in this collection. The story "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" and the essay "SantaLand Diaries" completely save the collection. I found both to be laugh out loud funny and downright crazy.

Throughout the collection Sedaris' characters were quite obnoxious, such as his blatant attempt at formulating a hipster-esque character in "After Malison;" however, I did enjoy that one just for its ridiculousness, it sorta reminded me of Bret Easton Ellis' characters in "Rules of Engagement." But if you're going to give this collection a try, I recommend trudging through the first part. You'll have a moment of giggles when you hit "Season's Greetings..." and if you can get to the last piece in the collection, SantaLand, I promise you will be greatly rewarded. You'll also never look at Macy's around Christmastime the same way again.

Overall, a solid collection of stories, but from what I hear it is his strongest work. Will you laugh while reading it? Why yes you will. Will you remember these stories after checking out some of his other works? Eh, it's not likely, aside from maybe "SantaLand Diaries." On to Me Talk Pretty One Day!
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,520 followers
April 28, 2015
After reading Sedaris's much better written (and funnier) Me Talk Pretty One Day earlier this year, his debut book of stories and essays is disappointing. The short stories, in particular, are uneven, many of them contrived, failed attempts at being whimsical, absurd or shocking. I guess he's just not very good at making stuff up.

The one gem is the final piece, the now famous SantaLand Diaries, chronicling his experiences as a 33-year-old working as an elf at Macy's elaborate holiday display. The tone is witty and self-deprecating, the pacing immaculate, the observations detailed, vivid and pee-your-pants (um, like one of the SantaLand visitors) hilarious.

I only wish the rest of the book had been this good.
Profile Image for Cassie.
587 reviews6 followers
January 29, 2014
To all of the reviewers who put down this collection of short stories and essays, I say: Give the man a break! Of course this book is nothing like "Me Talk Pretty One Day"--it's Sedaris' first novel and has very little of his own memoirs inside the cover. Authors are allowed to grow and better themselves and change their style as the years pass, so let's all just take a moment to take this book for what it is: a first printing of short stories written by a man who later becomes a great speaker and autobiographer.

Now, with that being said: I quite enjoyed the fact that this was nothing like other Sedaris works that I've read. The stories are disturbing and irreverent and gritty and hilarious and sarcastic and campy and filthy. I read a review who negatively compared this novel to reading a John Waters film--to which I say is the perfect comparison. If you're not a fan of the pretty, filthy world that Waters has the upper hand on, you won't like the words written in these pages. If, on the other hand, you're like me and would willing lick the ground that Waters' walks upon, then you will find a kindred spirit in "Barrel Fever". While reading, I kept making parallels in my head between the stories and Waters' films. "My Manuscript" is reminiscent of "A Dirty Shame", and "Music for Lovers" has a twinge of "Serial Mom". "Barrel Fever" also seems follow the same vein of the writing style of later authors Augusten Burroughs and Chuck Palahniuk, with a little A.M Holmes thrown in for good measure. It's definitely not for the faint of heart. If you can't stomach a little anal sex and lynch mob talk, then I would stick with his more family-oriented brand of neurosis. But, if you want a read that will make you squirm and question your morals, then please pick this up.
Profile Image for J.I..
Author 2 books33 followers
December 17, 2012
Definitely Sedaris' worst book. The stories are occasionally interesting and hilarious, but are, more often than not, half baked ideas with a little bit of angst-ridden humor that just doesn't work for the most part. The essays, on the other hand, are were Sedaris succeeds. He is funny and captivating and insightful. The way that Sedaris sees life is staggeringly original and thought provoking and it's no wonder his later books have been so popular and sold so well. It is a shame that his fiction does not benefit from his ability to see things in his life with such compassion and humor, and fall into 2D sketches.
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,445 reviews105 followers
June 2, 2021
I adore David Sedaris and never expected to be disappointed in his work. Guess what?........this one did not appeal to me at all. Another reviewer used the term "sub par" and was exactly right. The stories and essays almost had a bitter tone and the humor was sparse. It just didn't read like a Sedaris book but I guess every author has a bad day and this was obviously his. I cannot recommend it to anyone who enjoys his books,
Profile Image for Gabriel.
6 reviews
May 20, 2011
David Sedaris has become one of my favorite writers. He's funny, he's brutally honest, and he looks at life through a unique lens that I've grown to love. But I'll be honest: if this had been the first book by Sedaris that I read, I probably wouldn't have found any of this out because I wouldn't have been tempted to pick up another of his books ever again.

Okay, so it wasn't unreadable. In fact, it was often funny and it did shed a light on the stupidity in society, something that I've come to appreciate in his works. But it was just so...dark. And not in a good way because, believe you me, I like dark. Just not this brand of dark.

I think perhaps that my issue is that I like his essays much more than his short stories. He is a brilliant essayist and that's what I've been used to with the last several books that I've read by him. Barrel Fever is mostly short stories, something that I'm afraid he doesn't excel at. A lot of the stories seemed to be repetitive and many of them were too disturbing to be truly funny.

Not all of them were horrible. The last two stories in the book were incredible. "After Malison," which tells the story of a young woman obsessed with an obscure contemporary author, featured a character with a distinct voice who was so delightfully hipster (before there even were hipsters) that I couldn't help but love it, especially at the end when she gets her comeuppance. The titular story, "Barrel Fever," revolves around the alcoholic son of a racist woman who named him, of all things, Adolph. Yup, as in "Hitler." He's such an awful guy but the story is so funny and it really points out a lot of the insanity present in society. Other than these two, however, I really didn't like any of his short stories.

His essays are a completely different ballgame. The last thirty or so pages in the book are essays and they are definitely the Sedaris that I know and love. One of my favorite quotes in the book comes from the essay entitled "Diary of a Smoker:"

The trouble with aggressive nonsmokers is that they feel they are doing you a favor by not allowing you to smoke. They seem to think that one day you'll look back and thank them for those precious fifteen seconds they just added to your life. What they don't understand is that those are just fifteen more seconds you can spend hating their guts and plotting revenge. (p. 152)

Sedaris is at his best when he's talking about himself. His self-deprecating humor and his hilarious family stories (featuring, among others, his sister, actress Amy Sedaris) are much more impressive than his lack-luster, completely off-color short stories. It's one reason why I'm glad that so far this is the only book I've read by him that isn't completely essays.

Would I recommend this author? In a heartbeat. Go and read him right now. Would I recommend this book? Probably not. I'd say that if you do read it, just skip the first hundred-fifty pages and go straight to the little grey box towards the end that denotes where the short stories stop and the essays begin. Definitely read "SantaLand Diaries" because it's hysterical. There are, however, much better books out there by Sedaris, like Naked and When You Are Engulfed in Flames, both of which I highly recommend.

I give Barrel Fever 3 out of 5 stars but it only gets that many because the essays are great.
Profile Image for Roberta.
1,709 reviews278 followers
August 4, 2014
E' il secondo che leggo, di suo, e credo che Sedaris si meriti un posto tra gli autori da seguire con più attenzione.
E' umorismo americano ben fatto e soprattutto ha la capacità di passare da uno stile all'altro, da uno stereotipo o un linguaggio a un altro, mantenendo una buona qualità del racconto.
Ripeto quanto già detto altrove: trovo che negli ultimi anni ci sia stata una bulimia editoriale. Non basta un libro, deve uscire la trilogia. Non bastano 100 pagine, bisogna infarcirle di aggettivi ed avverbi inutili per farle diventare 300. Risultato? Noto che mi sto indirizzando sempre più spesso sui racconti, le novelle, i romanzi brevi. Apprezzo chi riesce a farmi sussurrare "ah!" con poche battute. I racconti di Sedaris ci riescono, anche se qualche volte l'americanità è troppo forte, troppo sboccata. Immagino che dopotutto stia mimando la sua cultura, anche quegli aspetti che non ho ancora assimilato tramite film e telefilm.

Aggiungo che la traduzione mi sembra davvero ben fatta. Il prossimo passo sarà provare a leggerlo in lingua originale e puntare al suo famoso Me Talk Pretty One Day.

E poi diciamocelo... è l'unico scrittore a cui è stato intitolato un camion della spazzatura!
Profile Image for Ginny_1807.
375 reviews138 followers
March 7, 2013
Sedaris non è uno scrittore umoristico nel senso più stretto della definizione e chi si rapportasse ai suoi libri animato da simili aspettative resterebbe senz’altro deluso.
Infatti le storie che racconta sono spesso spaccati di vita quotidiana, esperienze vissute o del tutto inventate che non hanno nulla di eccezionale o di insolito, tranne il modo in cui vengono presentate. È il suo tratto scarno, incisivo e graffiante nel caratterizzare i fatti e i personaggi a risultare umoristico, ma di un umorismo fine e intelligente che non trova riscontro in nessun altro scrittore a me noto. Ironia e comicità inoltre sono spesso soffuse di malinconia e affiancate dalla tenerezza, qualità che impediscono ogni possibile eccesso nei toni o caduta del buon gusto. Semplicemente entusiasmante.
Profile Image for Fran.
210 reviews103 followers
March 7, 2016
Tre stelle stiracchiatissime.
Si tratta di una raccolta di racconti probabilmente parzialmente autobiografici, che tra loro non hanno nessun tipo di connessione logica o cronologica.
I primi brevi capitoli sono veramente sconclusionati, piccoli aneddoti dimenticabili. Pian piano i racconti si allungano e prendono un minimo di corpo.
Il tutto più che ironico è molto agrodolce, con venature di autentico cattivo gusto.
"Il tarlo del teatro" e "Nudo" sono i brani che mi sono piaciuti e hanno arrotondato le stelline.
Profile Image for Graceann.
1,166 reviews
November 28, 2007
Please see my review at Amazon.com: Grace's Barrel Fever Review

Terrible, terrible book. With the sole exception of Santaland Diaries, this was a waste of time and paper. Borrow it from the library, commit Santaland Diaries to memory, and ignore the rest.
Profile Image for Ensiform.
1,337 reviews134 followers
November 10, 2012
A collection of short fiction pieces – parodies, flights of fancy bordering on the absurd, and the blackest of black-humor riffs on dysfunctional families – followed by Sedaris’ debut and best-known memoir, “SantaLand Diaries,” and a few other humorous essays.

As a great fan of Sedaris, I’ve read all of his work, and enjoyed this book the least. As a fiction writer, Sedaris makes a damn fine essayist; I found his stories to be either too fantastic to be meaningful (“Don’s Story,” in which an obnoxious unemployed man is fawned over by Hollywood, and everyone else, for no reason at all; “Parade,” in which an obnoxious man has a series of unlikely lovers, from Charleton Heston to Mike Tyson), or simply too grim to be funny (“The Last You’ll Hear From Me,” in which a woman plans to incite violence at her funeral, “Season’s Greetings,” a truly repulsive story in which a psychotic woman kills a baby by putting it in the dryer and tries to blame it on her husband’s Vietnamese war child; “Barrel Fever,” in which a man recalls his mother’s passive-aggressive nastiness, and defends his own obnoxious behavior when drinking).

Of course there’s humor to be found in dysfunction – it’s what Sedaris made his career out of – but in fiction, Sedaris treats his demons not as things to be deflated through observation, but as therapy. “SantaLand Diaries,” which I’ve heard before, was fantastic, and the other essays, about smoking, being an apartment cleaner in New York, and writing for a kink magazine, were good as well, but they did not make up for the sour taste the stories left.
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 15 books821 followers
March 20, 2012
I love David Sedaris. Lately I've been listening to more audiobooks but I can really only stand to listen to books that are 5-6 discs or less (I get kind of impatient if they take too long, unless there's a really good narrator). David Sedaris, reading his own work with a little help from his sister Amy Sedaris, is a great narrator. I think most authors reading their own work just know the correction delivery they're aiming for, and David Sedaris is better than most because he's got delivery like a stand-up comedian.

Barrel Fever and Other Stories is a collection of random bits, personal essays, and short stories. The short stories were fairly obvious because they get even more outlandish than Sedaris's own life. I loved the short story read by Amy in which the narrator has written a long letter to be read at her funeral in which she ultimately encourages everyone to throw stones at and kill the ex-boyfriend who cheated on her. The short story about the homophobia journal was hilarious as well.

I highly recommend listening to a David Sedaris book rather than reading it!
Profile Image for Bruna.
103 reviews
February 20, 2016
Il primo libro di Sedaris che io abbia letto, e rischia di restare l'unico. Questo racconto semi-autobiografico a singhiozzo, nonostante alcuni momenti resi godibili dall'acuto spirito di osservazione dell'autore, mi ha talvolta irritato ma più spesso annoiato. Può darsi benissimo che io non capisca il suo senso dell'umorismo, sempre che a infastidirmi non sia stato invece il gigantesco e sfacciato egocentrismo di cui mi pare dia prova il narratore, e che solo a tratti viene interrotto da benvenuti ma troppo rari momenti di autoironia.
Profile Image for Tracy.
131 reviews63 followers
October 30, 2008
Sedaris' first book and it shows. I am glad that he switched to the autobiographical stories and left the straight up fiction behind. reads like a john waters film, but could be better. i'd say this book is for sedaris completists and that others should just stick w/Naked.

Very weak. Just go ahead and read the later books.
Profile Image for Mimi.
692 reviews190 followers
February 16, 2019
Sedaris is one of the few authors belonging to my "can't read in public" category because I simply can't read anything he writes while in public without laughing so hard that I fall over and end up rolling on the floor. Comedians and their essay collections come and go, but Barrel Fever will always be my all-time favorite.
Profile Image for Colin James.
22 reviews1 follower
November 16, 2009
Although many of his stories are filled with delusions of grandeur and insane self absorption, when Sedaris does it, somehow it's still funny. For example:

"The press is having a field day over my relationship with Mike Tyson. We tried to keep it a secret, but for Mike and me there can be no privacy...We look so good together, everyone wants pictures..."

"Mike and I are arguing over what to name our kitten. For the record, a long haired cat is one thing, but a big white Persian/Himalayan blend named 'Pitty Ting' is something else altogether..."

"At one point, I told the cat to shut up, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Mike raise his fist. It all happened so fast... I'm no stranger to a flaring temper, but after he hit me, I got out of the car and just walked away. Mike followed me. He got out of the car and started begging, on his hand and knees, whimpering his remorse. I put my hand up to my eye, pretending to wipe away some of the blood, and then, WHAM! Boy did I clip him!"

"While he was unconscious, I kicked his little cat out of the car. When he came to, Mike had forgotten the entire incident. That happens all the time. 'What happened' he asked? I told him, 'You don't remember? You promised that you would buy me a pony.'"

"We rode round and round the block on that pony, who groaned beneath the collective weight of our overwhelming capacity for love and understanding... "

Sedaris is outrageously funny in this collection of short, unbelievably fictional stories. In this one, called "Parade" he drops the names of many of his high profile "former lovers" including Bruce Springsteen, Charlton Heston, Peter Jennings, and of course, Mike Tyson...it was too funny to not to laugh out loud.

Profile Image for Stacey.
707 reviews45 followers
December 23, 2008
First, a disclaimer: I listened mostly to the audiobook which, upon closer inspection is titled "Barrel Fever: and Other Stories," not the subtitle from the print version (Stories and Essays), even though the cover art is the same. I was so confused by the audiobook that I was moved to check out the print version from the library to see what the he-e-double-hockey-sticks was happening. It was like David Sedaris on shuffle and I did not understand it at all. There were these like 5 minute pointless ramblings in between the longer stories. I still don't get it. As I said, the print version is different. The ramblings don't exist in the print version and it looks like about 1/3 of the material was left off of the audio.
So I tried to read it instead, and hated it almost as much as I hate Holidays on Ice. In fact, two of the stories from Holidays on Ice are in Barrel Fever. Why, Lord, why? I almost had an actual allergic reaction to seeing them again. Just like his stories in H.O. I., those in Barrel Fever largely rely on the hilarity of suicide and homicide to entertain and amuse you. Ho-ho-ho. A couple of the stories about his family--as usual--were funny, but very similar to what you can find in his other collections, only not as good. I was about to come to the conclusion that Sedaris just can't do anything other than memoir when I read the title story, "Barrel Fever." It turns out to be one of my favorite stories by him ever--and it's fiction. The rest is kind of a pile of guano though. Don't know what guano is? Watch Ace Ventura 2, people. I get all my fancy words from Jim Carey movies.
Profile Image for Adam Oster.
Author 10 books18 followers
July 21, 2014
I'm actually surprised I read this whole thing. From the opening stories I felt as though this was nothing more than an amateur author testing his skills, attempting to find his voice, struggling to be humorous. On more than one occasion I actually checked the sexual preference of the author for fear that the entire thing was just supposed to be one horrible gay joke, as opposed to the working out of demons that it more likely is. Perhaps the issue is my knowledge of current David Sedaris and his rather clever and almost sometimes bordering on cutesy humor, as opposed to this incredibly dark, poking fun at completely horrible people type of thing.
That being said, I did really enjoy Seasons Greetings, one of the short stories in the collection. It did a lot of the same as the rest of the short stories, but did so in a way that was actually a brilliant look into a specific type of terrible person that really felt as though it were crafting a full picture, as opposed to just showcasing those self-serving folks.

However, the true highlight of this collection, the story that actually put Sedaris on the map, is The SantaLand Diaries. I enjoyed this essay so much that I actually forgot how much I despised the majority of the rest of the book. Simply put, you must read his expose on the life of mall elves. The rest, however, could just be forgotten.

Luckily, SantaLand is what made Sedaris famous and is what obviously shaped his current career more than the rest of this collection, so perhaps this book did serve one good purpose...getting the rest of the stuff out of the way so we could see what Sedaris is really capable of.
Profile Image for Hilda.
154 reviews5 followers
January 21, 2008
Yeah, uh..., no. I didn't like 95% of this book. I have now read all of David Sedaris books and I can unequivocally say this is the book I liked least. I liked it even less than I liked "Naked" - or should I say I disliked it even more than I disliked "Naked".

This is Sedaris' first book and IMO it's obvious. There are twelve "stories" - allegedly fiction - and four essays, supposedly non-fiction. As far as I know, all subsequent Sedaris books are essay collections. I can see why. The difference between the fiction and the essays is night and day. I found the fiction to be just *too* disturbing. Seriously - really disturbing. Happily, it seems Sedaris' *real* life - albeit dysfunctional - is no where near as scary and twisted as his imagination.

My favorite entry in this book is the essay "Diary of a Smoker" - I thought it was very funny. In real life Sedaris is an avowed anti-non-smoker, he has said that's one of the reasons he left New York City for France where he now lives. It also includes his classic "Santaland Diaries", which is phenomenal - but you can read that in "Holidays On Ice" and not have to endure the rest of this book's unpleasantness.

In my opinion, this book is *leagues* away from my favorite "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and I would recommend it, warily, only to Sedaris fans.
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278 reviews2 followers
December 30, 2016
Three stars for the included essay entitled SANTALAND DIARIES, but the rest of this collection of 'stories' and 'essays' is repetitious and unfunny. It's the same voice, the same instances, the same surreal universe set in similar households told in a 'trying to be so outrageous, you gotta laugh' voice.
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