Thursday, December 4, 2008

Book Review: I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

While David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors, I have a considerably more complicated view of his sister, Amy. Although I like Amy, I tend to prefer her in small doses. In a cameo or on a talk show, she is very charming and funny, but I can't imagine watching her for more than thirty minutes at a time. I greatly admire her wit and her complete lack of self-consciousness, but like eating an entire pound of Godiva in one sitting, I always thought she was just too much to take in large doses. However, her book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, which was first released two years ago and has just come out in paperback, may just change my mind about her once and for all.

For those of you unfamiliar with Amy Sedaris, she is a jack of all trades and a master of many of them. Besides acting in film (she's had cameos in approximately every other film to come out since 2002), theatre (The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told - a gay reimagining of the Genesis story) and television (Strangers with Candy), she is also a known baker (she sells her cupcakes in NYC), proud rabbit owner (not a euphemism - she has pet rabbits and even starred in a Microsoft commercial with rabbits), and gifted comedienne. All of these attributes are featured, in some form or fashion, in I Like You, a subversively humorous and surprisingly useful guide to hospitality.

In the book's introduction, Sedaris admits that she does not like joke cookbooks. Consequently, while some of the advice that she offers should definitely be taken with a grain (or even a shaker) of salt, her recipes are easy to follow and are typically very good. The recipes range from cupcakes and cheese balls to traditional Greek dishes, and Sedaris also includes menu suggestions, such as a meal for a first date and an alcoholic's menu (applesauce and chicken wings). Interspersed with the recipes are photographs of Sedaris and numerous arts and crafts as well as hints and tips for entertaining. While many of these tips are useful, there are certainly some ones that are made with tongue planted firmly in cheek; for instance, as a party game for children, she suggests taking the children to a part of town that they have never been to before and letting them figure out how to get home on their own.

While I Like You may never take the place of the traditional guides to etiquette and entertaining, it certainly deserves a place beside these books. This book makes a great hostess gift for the nontraditional hostess or as a wickedly funny (and slightly strange) reference for yourself. There is also an abridged, but still humorous, audio version, in which you can enjoy the craziness of Amy Sedaris in stereo. Trust me, as we get stand in the midst of the Christmas/Hanukkah/ Kwanzaa season, I Like You makes a great alternative to the ubiquitous songs about reindeer and snow.