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IN BRIEF

Fiction

October 16, 1994|DICK RORABACK

BARREL FEVER: Stories and Essays by David Sedaris (Little, Brown: $19.95; 196 pp.) It depends upon what you mean by gay. In the newer sense--alternate life style, if you will--David Sedaris is gay. In the older sense--gay Paree, gay caballeros, nosegay, Enola Gay, what have you--Sedaris is about as gay as a picnic in Flanders Field. Witty--very--but malevolent; the Alice Roosevelt Longworth of letters ("If you can't say something nice, come sit beside me"). You may know Sedaris from public radio. Now here he is in print, with a protagonist who's left Charlton Heston--"Charlton can be manipulative and possessive"--for Mike Tyson (whose teeth he swallows; "They were gold, but money isn't the issue"); who "met Bill Bradley when he was going with Redd Foxx." This piece, "Parade," is fiction--it is, isn't it? There are a few essays scattered around and about (on being a chain smoker; on working as a Santa's elf). The stories, though, carry the day, polished little marbles of misanthropy. "Funny as a rubber crutch," they used to say, which doesn't begin to evoke the mirth of the only guy in the world who's noticed that Santa is an anagram for Satan.

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