Originally posted May 2013
There’s nothing like a David Sedaris book to turn that frown upside down.
His latest, “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” is a collection of life’s observations and alternate-personality essays—and on par with “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” and “Me Talk Pretty One Day.”
Beginning with the upside of socialized dentistry and quickly followed with reminiscences about his childhood, this book felt more about personal revelation than others. There’s outrageous humor, to be sure—and allowing yourself to settle into the visual the author paints makes for a merrier read. Really, you have to picture Papa Sedaris in his pantsless glory, throttling the wrong neighborhood boy for calling his wife a bitch, only to offer him ice cream as a brusque apology, to revel in it. And Sedaris’ contentious relationship with his father is not secret, nor his is history of wanderlust.
But in this collection, the stories seem so much more introspective. Take for example, his retelling of the childhood summer during which he learned there was no way he’d ever earn his father’s praise, when put into a non-existent competition with Donny Osmond and Greg Sakas. Or his Starksy and Hutch-like adventure with his dad in search of the guy who jumped his sister one a late-night walk. For me, these stories evoked more feelings of “I wish …” and less of “My dad is a loveable oaf.”
And then there are the more personal tales—of travels in a bar car, learning foreign languages, colonscopies and stolen passports that reveal Sedaris’ innate wit and ability to be self-deprecating without sounding like too much of a snob. I read one review of this book that suggested Sedaris’ success made it more difficult to be as common and grounded as in the past, but I beg to differ. He readily admits these things, so it’s easy to forgive whining about being robbed in Hawaii.
If you’re a fan of Sedaris, you’re going to read the book regardless of what I think, so I’m comfortable in saying “Me Talk Pretty One Day” remains my fave. But this was definitely a great read.