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Barrel Fever

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  49,061 ratings  ·  1,662 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 1st Paperback Edition, 196 pages
Published 1994 by Back Bay Books
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  49,061 ratings  ·  1,662 reviews

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Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

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
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 say
Minnie Romanovich
May 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
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.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Julie Ehlers
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 ...more
Anthony Chavez
Jan 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
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 fou
Apr 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: audio-style
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 which the narrator is plugged into ridiculou ...more
Glenn Sumi
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: essay readers, satirists, Sedaris fans
Recommended to Cassie by: Eileen
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 a ...more
Jun 21, 2008 added it
Shelves: read-2008
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 fictio ...more
May 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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'v
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, non-fiction
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 w
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, essays
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.
Oct 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
Nov 28, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
Shelves: essays
Please see my review at 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.
As I recalled from reading the print version several years ago, the personal stories are best. The fictional essays are decent, too, but not quite as entertaining. On audio, it’s still a “pick,” though. I love Sedaris!
mark monday
Jun 14, 2007 rated it liked it
don't link gays and war criminals! as a member of both communities, i would like to point out that there are some stark differences.
Colin James
Nov 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kirstin Lipka
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/Himala
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 pointle ...more
Adam Oster
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 hi ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 lik ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Rating 2.56 but can't do half stars. Average based on all stories. Not all were that great but there were some gems. Santaland was by far the best but I had read it in another collection by him.
Johnny J
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
After reading some books that had little to no comedic value to them whatsoever, I thought it'd mix it up a bit with a work from a comedian that I found to be funny in the past, David Sedaris. I had first heard his comedy a few years ago when my mom had me listen to the audiobook version of Lets Explore Diabetes With Owls during a long car ride. As Sedaris has had a very interesting and somewhat checkered past, some of the stories he told (the book was a collection of essays) were pretty awkward ...more
Apr 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sedaris fans
Recommended to PlatKat by: John
The books begins with a tempestuous tabloid recount of the author's numerous affairs with famous figureheads, including boxer Mike Tyson who apparently has a softer, gayer side that none of us knew about. Throughout the first chapter, the most prevalent thought in my mind was "What the fuck am I reading?" But of course, this is David Sedaris we're talking about here, and perhaps the barrage of non-fiction literature I've been reading up to this point hadn't prepared me for the silliness.
Bruce Thomas
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Many hilarious moments - the rare laugh out loud event occurred a few times in the car, especially his depiction of his brother Rooster with sister Amy in You Can't Kill the Rooster essay:

My brother politely ma'ams and sirs all strangers but refers to friends and family his father included, as either "bitch" or "motherfucker." Friends are appalled at the way he speaks to his only remaining parent. The two of them once visited my sister Amy and me in New York City, and we celebrated w
Wes Locher
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of David Sedaris
Shelves: humor, essays, 2010-reads
Even though this is one of David Sedaris's earliest offerings, I did not read it first. I came onto Sedaris's sardonic wit through the fantastic essay collection "Me Talk Pretty One Day." After laughing my way through those 200 plus pages I was hungry for more by the author. Being a completest, I usually read everything I can by authors that I enjoy.

Coming from the high that was "Me Talk Pretty..." I was a little put off by "Barrel Fever," the next title I attempted from the author.
Kate Vocke (bookapotamus)
I'm a HUGE David Sedaris fan but this was not my favorite. This was written in 1994, his early years of being published, and he has definitely improved with age. He's still trying to find his voice and clearly we all know he does! "Me Talk Pretty One Day", "Naked", and "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" are proof of that.

"Santaland Diaries" is an exception - I give that 5 stars alone, his recollections about being a mall elf at Macy's are hysterical to say the least, and you glimpse t
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
It has its moments but Barrel Fever is not among my favourite of David Sedaris' works. I found some of the stories long and odd...his fiction just doesn't work for me, BUT I loved it whenever he spoke about his family. They're hilarious. Also, Amy's readings of some of the stories were excellent, I love that he includes her.

Second reading: I liked it more than I expected to. The autobiographical stuff is excellent, particularly the stuff about his brother Paul, and the fiction is bet
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an early publication of David Sedaris. The first section is a collection of short stories in the first person. If I had been smart enough to read the section title, I would have enjoyed the first couple of stories more (I spent way too much time trying to figure out how the biographical details of the narrators matched up with the Sedaris persona that I'd become so fond of). The stories all have a humorous side, but overall are rather dark (the narrators range from social misfits to shal ...more
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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 Cord
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“If you're looking for sympathy you'll find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.” 6348 likes
“I just looked at the pattern of my life, decided I didn't like it, and changed.” 124 likes
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