If you thought Barrel Fever was a satisfying slab of choleric fiction, you’ll thrill to Sedaris’ essays, in which his travels in hyper-reality take him hitchhiking with psychopaths, in pursuit of ”migrant” labor in Oregon, and around the house with his enchantingly blunt-spoken mother. Naked covers an impressive emotional range here, from the comically corrosive title piece, in which he discovers that ”nudists are just about the last people you’d ever want to see naked,” to ”Ashes,” his account of his mother’s death from cancer — a direct, unsentimental hit to the heart. While his signature cynicism seasons most of these narratives, a petty meanness curdles others. Still, Sedaris, the patron saint of low-life losers, brings X-ray vision to this strip search of the human psyche, sparing no one — including himself.

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