Ahora Michiko Kakutani enfila sus baterías contra David Sedaris. Seguro conocen a esta especie de stand up comedy radial, que inició su carrera literaria escribiendo monólogos de un enano disfrazado de elfo en navidad. Confieso que a mí no me hace tanta gracia, quizá porque lo leo en castellano y me pierdo el sentido del humor gringo (a propósito, me pasa lo mismo con Saturday Night Live, pero no con Seinfeld ni Curb Your Enthusiasm, ¿alguna idea al respecto?). Intenté leer Cíclopes y no la soporté; me fue mejor con Un vestido de domingo (traducción desafortunada de Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim), ambas editadas por Mondadori. A principios de mes, Sedaris -refugiado en París- publicó su nueva obra When You Are Engulfed in Flames y la Kakutani se fue con todo. La calificó de asombrosamente mediocre (aunque anunció que sus fans encontrarán algunas cosillas rescatables) y de rascar la olla para encontrar más de lo mismo:
In his 2004 collection, “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” Mr. Sedaris showed signs of transcending this formula: the most powerful entries from that volume (like “The Ship Shape,” in which a reminiscence about a long-ago family summer house blossomed into a moving meditation on time and age and loss) suggested that the author was evolving from a comic writer into a full-fledged memoirist. There is little of that sort of Chekhovian introspection in “When You Are Engulfed in Flames,” however. And little of the charming, self-deprecating humor that’s made a lot of his earlier work so popular among NPR listeners and New Yorker readers (...) the reader has the sense that Mr. Sedaris is scraping the bottom of the barrel for material, writing for the sake of producing another book, vamping for time instead of looking within or trying something new. His efforts to learn Japanese in “The Smoking Section” recall his earlier efforts to learn French. And his efforts to satirize Ivy League educations are cringe-makingly lame: To temper his father’s enthusiasm about his acceptance into college, he writes, “I announced that I would be majoring in patricide. The Princeton program was very strong back then, the best in the country, but it wasn’t the sort of thing your father could get too worked up about.” (...) Happily for the Sedaris fan, there are a few gems in this volume, most notably “Crybaby,” an account of another airplane trip in which Mr. Sedaris encounters a grieving widower, watches a Chris Rock movie and is suddenly reminded of his own childhood 40 years ago; and “Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool,” which recounts his parents’ efforts to become art collectors. These pieces not only stand out in an incredibly mediocre volume, but they also remind the reader of what Mr. Sedaris can do at his best.
Pero lo mejor de todo es que a partir de la carátula y algunas situaciones realmente hórridas que cuenta que suceden en el libro, declaró que el libro tenía un "creepy-aroma". Eso no estará nada mal para algunos frikis, ¿no? Aquí otra vez la Kakutani:
As the cover illustration for this book (which depicts a skull smoking a cigarette) suggests, a lot of these pieces have a distinctly distasteful — even downright creepy — aroma. One chapter details Mr. Sedaris’s fascination with dead bodies (as a boy, he says, he used to keep digging up the bodies of dead pets, after he’d buried them) and features a “CSI”-like trip to a medical examiner’s office, during which Mr. Sedaris watches a pathologist collect maggots from a victim’s spinal column and learns that “if you jump from a tall building and land on your back, your eyes will pop out of your head and hang by bloody cables.” Another chapter recounts hitchhiking episodes in which he says he was propositioned by a man and his negligee-wearing wife and, another time, by a truck driver who kept talking about oral sex. A third entry concerns a neighbor in France who was sent to jail, reportedly for sexually molesting his wife’s grandchildren. For that matter, many of the acquaintances Mr. Sedaris writes about in this book — and writes about sketchily, as though he were in too much of a rush to provide any nuance or emotional detail — are decidedly unpleasant company. There’s a neighbor named Helen, who likes to hurl racial epithets and expletives at people and who presides over a New York apartment building “like the secret police, always watching, always taking notes.” There’s a New York cabdriver, who obnoxiously boasts of his sexual exploits with two women, and there’s Becky, a snippy airplane seatmate, who treats the author icily after he refuses to trade seats with her husband.