There is an uneven quality in the selection of stories and essays in Barrel Fever by David Sedaris. Originally published in 1994, my paperback copy has 196 pages. This is not Sedaris at his best and I almost stopped reading after the first 50 pages. The only reason I kept reading was because it isn't a novel. In general, I did not enjoy most of the stories. I appreciated more of the essays. The story titled "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family" written as an over the top Christmas letter and the story "Barrel Fever" were both funny. By far the most enjoyable selection was the essay, "Santaland Diaries." This is a so-so recommendation, if only for the essay "Santaland Dairies." If you have never read any of Sedaris' work, pick up Me Talk Pretty One Day or Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim before you consider Barrel Fever. Rating: 2
"Listening to Mrs. Peacock is like trying to decipher what a ground hog might mean when it clicks its tongue three times and paws at the earth with a hind foot."
"Did I tell you what your sister Hope sent me for my birthday?...A poncho... I've written her back saying I'm sure it will come in very handy the next time I mount my burro for a three-day journey over the mountains to the neighboring village."
"[T]here was nothing of mine in those boxes [of unwanted gifts] as, at an early age, I discovered that postage stamps, cartons of cigarettes, light bulbs, and mail-order steaks are the gifts that keep giving."
"Did I tell you that your sister Charity called me? I hardly recognized her voice because it's been, what, three years since she's phoned me. It seems she lost her job at the suicide prevention hot line and is looking to borrow some money. I said, 'Hold on just a few seconds darling. It's a bit difficult to reach my purse with this IV in my arm.' "
"I am a thirty-three-year-old man applying for a job as an elf.... Even worse than applying is the very real possibility that I will not be hired, that I couldn't find work as an elf."
" They closed the meeting saying, 'I want you to remember that even if you are assigned Photo Elf on a busy weekend, YOU ARE NOT SANTA'S SLAVE.' "
"I've meet elves from all walks of life. Most of them are show business people... but a surprising number of them held real jobs... before the recession hit. Bless their hearts, these people never imagine there was a velvet costume waiting in their future. They're the really bitter elves."
"Lately I am feeling trollish and have changed my elf name from Crumpet to Blisters."
"I've had two people say that to me today, 'I'm going to get you fired.' Go ahead, be my guest. I'm wearing a green velvet costume; it doesn't get any worse than this. Who do these people think they are?"