In brief: A collection of essays, short fiction and even a poem by the wonderfully observant and highly funny David Sedaris.
The good: Some truly hilarious moments.
The not-so-good: Sometimes I wasn’t certain which bits were fiction (He’s a woman? He’s been married three times?)
Why I chose it: From the library and possibly the greatest title for a book ever.
My rating: 9 out of 10
Who can go past a book with such a wonderful title? Definitely not me. (Just in case you’re wondering- yes there are references to owls, hardly any references to diabetes but no reference to the combination of the two). This was my introduction to a whole book’s worth of David Sedaris’ wisdom, observation and wry humour. It certainly doesn’t disappoint! From the first essay describing in great detail his experience with dentists and periodontists to the last retelling of the experiences of a colonoscopy, this book was filled with witty remarks, observations and occasions for general hilarity. I would suggest that you don’t read this book on public transport if you worry what random strangers think of you and your mental health!
The book is very easy to read as it’s broken down into shorter stories/essays/poems (don’t be put off by the poetry, it’s actually very clever and there isn’t much of it). You can read one a day or greedily guzzle as many you can stomach (be warned that your stomach muscles may ache if you do this from too much laughing). Sedaris recounts tales of his childhood (dangling Barbie dolls out of the back of a moving car, swimming competitions, trying to find a man who attacked his sister) and his family, particularly his father. I feel now that I could walk into a Sedaris gathering and comfortably start making conversation – whether it be about colonoscopies, post-work attire or Greek grandmothers. Sedaris also discusses more contemporary problems – buying his partner a present (how you improve on the last one sends him into a shop involving Tesco bags and odd creatures) and why people voluntarily pick up rubbish from the side of the road. You may not think these topics interesting or even humorous, but that’s my fault – when David Sedaris writes them, they are incredibly funny. Plus he has the ability to tie the piece together beautifully at the end so the first and last observations just work. Brilliant!
Interspersed with observations on life and events are short fiction pieces told in the first person – initially I was confused because I was fairly certain David wasn’t a woman or a man with a number of children from multiple marriages. Then I just learned to roll with it as these pieces generally contain a real sting in the tale or wonderful punch line. (I highly recommend the one about the woman protester aided by her son. The final line is hilarious). I suppose I could suggest these pieces be put in a separate section, but that would ultimately take away the feeling that this could all be real (and probably is for some!).
I’m eager to read more of Sedaris’ collections now – especially after seeing him live recently. (If you have the opportunity, you must take it up – he is fascinating). So if you see someone laughing uncontrollably on public transport, don’t look away…just look at who they’re reading!