I have had a few people tell me that of Sedaris' books, this is their least favorite. Some described it as "not nearly as good as his other books," or stated that it "mostly sucks." That is very likely the reason that I waited so long to read it. After completing Barrel Fever, I can now say two things: 1.) I have read all of Sedaris' books, and 2.) the people who told me that this book was not good were just wrong.
Barrel Fever is split up into two parts. Short stories make up the first section, which is about three fourths of the book. The last fourth is essays, what have now become the standard fair of Sedaris. While the essays were good, I particularly enjoyed the short stories, especially "Glen's Homophobia Newletter Vol. 3, No. 2," "Don's Story," and "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!"
Published in 1994, Barrel Fever was Sedaris' first book. Naked was the follow-up, and it contained no short stories. Since these stories were obviously completely fictional, they allowed Sedaris to create some interesting characters and situations that he isn't normally able to deal with. I would be interested in why he stopped including short stories in his books.
Barrel Fever did not disappoint in the slightest.