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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Comedian gives off-color guidelines for etiquette

There really is no better way to make money than by taking advantage of unsuspecting house guests.
This seems to be Amy Sedaris’ mantra in her book, “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” ($27.99). As the title suggests, Sedaris dedicates the better portion of her words to drug and alcohol references, but also informs readers of the do’s and don’ts of etiquette, being a guest and throwing a great party. She shows readers everything from how they can make a profit at their parties (think 25-cent indoor garage sale) to how to get the vomit stains out of their bedspread after a hazy night of salty dogs and sangria.
Sedaris, known for her television comedy “Strangers with Candy,” puts together a mismatched field guide of entertainment. The book is sectioned off by topic, ranging from how to act on a blind date to what to do when a rich uncle drops in for an unexpected visit. Each section contains Sedaris’ ideas mixed with recipes and other sidebars to complement the information she provides.
She suggests that readers not ask a person, “Does the sun make noise?” on a first date, nor should they attempt to comfort a grieving widow by saying, “You’ll meet someone new, speaking of which, I know this guy who works at the Wax and Wicker. He’s got a green card!” Some of her ideas are meant to be funny, but in sticky situations readers can seriously use the book to figure out what gift to give or how to handle a last-minute, drop-in guest.
The art in the book is appealing, but it distracts from Sedaris’ words. From cut-out pictures to sketches, often unrelated pieces of art are scattered across the pages. Sedaris hired a photographer to take pictures of her in numerous settings, many of which mock the traditional homemaker and hostess image. Take, for example, a picture of Sedaris leaning in the corner of her hallway in a ’70s- style summer dress looking quaint — while holding a bong.
A realistic aspect of Sedaris’ book is its presentation of recipes. People tend to feel disheartened when the pumpkin pie pictured in popular recipe books looks quite different from their own concoction, the mushy, bubbly mess that Sara Lee may have coughed up onto their countertop. Every cook has been there, but instead of striving for perfection, Sedaris embraces food’s flaws. She knows it’s not about how it looks, but how it tastes. She illustrates this with less-than-attractive pictures of her own culinary creations.
“I Like You” is a satire on the books that food and craft moguls like Martha Stewart pump out every year. The crafts in Sedaris’ book are absolutely useless. No one needs a bracelet made of potatoes and carrots or a paper-towel totem pole. Mostly fashioned from felt and pom-poms, the crafts will make readers laugh as they remember kindergarten.
Sedaris is forward in her writing, making lists and collecting helpful hints, all while making the reader laugh at her photos and thoughts. At one point, Sedaris declares she is a “sucker” for googly eyes and says, “I’ve always said that when I die, I want to be displayed in an open casket with googly eyes replacing my own.”
She even gives readers something to think about while performing menial household tasks: “I always feel grateful to have a sink full of dirty dishes when I’m mad at somebody. It Â… allows me the freedom to imagine all the horrific ways they might catch fire or be set up for a false drug bust that will imprison them forever.”
“I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” is funny and informative. Not all of the pictures, jokes and side notes are necessary, but that’s what gives the book its personal touch of Sedaris. Her thoughts are rolling as each section throws the reader from recipe to story to helpful hint and suddenly onto the next section before the reader even realizes that “baked Alaska” is not a drug reference.
“I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” received four stars.