I've been a fan of David Sedaris since the late 90s and I love Barrel Fever, Holidays on Ice, Naked, and Me Talk Pretty One Day. I loved his outrageous humor and his eye for the grotesque and absurd. After that book I thought he started moving into more somber, earnest territory, and also started repeating himself. The only essays in this book that seem funny are the live readings where you hear audience laughter punctuating his remarks.
For a fan, this book was really repetitive. He's studying languages, reminiscing about his dad (who now sounds downright abusive rather than ridiculous), talking about Paris, making fun of homophobes, telling stories about book tours, etc etc.
Slowed down and subdued. It's been strange to hear his reading voice has gotten slower and calmer with each new audiobook.
It's disappointing -- I loved his manic, unmistakable voice in the earlier books. How did he describe it? "With its girlish timbre and high, excitable pitch". Voices do get deeper with age, but it sounds like he's working to "sound less gay". Sounds like the speech therapy he made fun of in "Go Carolina" has finally worked :-(
Not unless he finds some new things to write about.
Other reviewers complain that it's not as fresh as his older works, but its good moments are great. The dog poetry would do Ogden Nash proud. Even the production credits at the end had me laughing out loud.
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
While I enjoyed this collection more than Sedaris' previous book 'Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk', it just didn't rise to the levels of his great collections ('Naked' or 'Me Talk Pretty Someday'), or even his very good collections ('When You Are Engulfed in Flames' or 'Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim'). I just feel like he is retreading the same ground, picking up the same litter, and is starting that phase in his career where he is like a band from the 80s that isn't creating as much as exploiting his better work.
I hope I am being overly pessimistic, and maybe I am just jaded from the horrible audio experience my wife and I had last night listening to him at Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, AZ, but it seems that the reading typified my feelings about his book. Sedaris was reading to a comfortable group in comfortable shoes, reading comfortable stories. We all laughed at the appropriate parts, we all knew what we expected and David Sedaris delivered the goods -- mostly.
The audio quality wasn't great, but I walked away mostly amused that I somehow ended up parting with 1 credit at Audible, $15 bucks on Amazon, $45 for a live reading, and while mildly entertained ... I wasn't particularly blown away. It was like I was a beer-bellied, middle-aged man at a Journey concert. I figure I didn't pay for the new set, just for the couple hours of nostalgia at how great it was ten or twenty years ago. Now, I've just got to figure out now how much nostalgia will cost me tomorrow.
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
I'm a habitual insomniac. Every weekday, I wake up about 2:30 am, obsessing about things that happened earlier in the week, the month, the year, or even the decade. I can usually fall back asleep in 10 or 15 minutes, but not always. Those are my bleak hours, and David Sedaris has eased some of them.
It's not that "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls" (2013) helped me fall back to sleep. It didn't. For the last six months, every time I listened to something with the idea that it would be the Audible equivalent of Ambien, I put Willkie Collins "The Woman in White" (1859) on sleep timer. In the grand tradition of Victorian writers, Collins relies heavily on intricate descriptions, lengthy foreshadowing, and post-drama discussions amongst friends and neighbors. It's totally possible to drift off after a few minutes of listening and not miss a thing.
"Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" takes the dark obsessions that come to life when the house slumbers, turns them on their side, and makes them funny. Worried about the garbage accumulating in your neighborhood? Turn yourself into a one person trash collector listening to "Rubbish". Missing your first love and wondering what if, and what could have been? Listen to "A Man Walks into a Bar Car". You just had your 50th birthday and those friendly by terribly persistent people at your HMO are insisting that it's time for a colonoscopy? "Happy Place" makes the whole procedure a hoot. It's very difficult to take obsessions seriously when you're laughing at them.
My favorite quote from the book? "Their house had real hard-cover books in it, and you often saw them lying open on the sofa, the words still warm from being read."
Sedaris is a raconteur, and this collection of essays is really best as a listen.
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If you like David Sedaris, you won't be disappointed by his latest work. Quirky, funny, and self-effacing as always, Sedaris is more focused on the world around him than he is focused on himself or his family. There is still some of his trademark self-absorption and family analysis, but he seems to be slowly sorting out all of his self-loathing and lingering family resentment, and he now has energy and attention to devote to other topics. Interestingly, in terms of family analysis, he has turned his attention on his father and away from his mother.
Fans of David Sedaris rejoice--this is his best collection of essays since "Me Talk Pretty One Day"--at least in the humble opinion of this reviewer. Sedaris is in top form here on topics ranging from airline travel to the pitfalls of foreign language instruction (Japanese, German, Chinese) to the casual everyday cruelty of children--and of adults, for that matter. The tone is in turn poignant and sarcastic, and always unflinchingly honest.
Sedaris' humor has an edge to it and he doesn't spare himself from its blade, but he unfailingly finds the comedy in his experiences and invites us to do the same. His turn of phrase manages to state truths while at the same time being very funny--one example I can't get out of my head is his observation that Americans see Australians as "Canadians in a thong."
While one or two of the essays had a familiar ring to them (perhaps from a version appearing on an episode of This American Life?), the material is almost all new as far as I can tell.
Sedaris' deadpan delivery style greatly enhances the listening experience--this is certainly an instance where the audio surpasses the print version. Highly recommended!
Love the wittiness of narrator and how he told the stories. Something to casually hear through the day and brighten your mood. 100% exceed my expectations on the book.
An interesting story.
Maybe in twenty, thirty years.
Not sure... couldn't get past the first five minutes.
It's like a new yorker cartoon without the clever/funny payoff.