Audie Award Finalist, Humor, 2014
From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new collection of essays taking his listeners on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler's experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist's shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.
©2013 David Sedaris (P)2013 Hachette Audio
"Sedaris is the preeminent humorist of his generation." (Entertainment Weekly)
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
When I discovered David Sedaris I was elated, devouring everything he'd written, preferably in audio format so I could enjoy his delivery. He is a witty genius exploring life experiences for humorous, thought provoking, and snarky effect.
This book however produced fewer laugh-out-loud moments instead turning out the occasional chuckle and a few smiles. Listening is like visiting an old friend who doesn't have much new to share; maybe the well is dry for now. A full length book should have been replaced with an article or two in the New Yorker.
The transition music was long and eerie, not in keeping with the tone for the content. Also, his delivery wasn't as fervent and immediate as in earlier performances.
Still love David, and am not frustrated I used my credit. My advice to those who enter is this...don't expect the same initial high from his earlier work and enjoy the nostalgia. His body of work is phenomenal and am hopeful for future writings.
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
Frankly I would listen to David Sedaris reading a grocery list. His storytelling is superb, and even when he's not bringing his A-game, he's still phenomenal.
That being said, this book wasn't particularly memorable. And if you're new to Sedaris, I'd recommend looking elsewhere first.
The first time I heard Sedaris, I thought I was listening to the funniest, most clever and original humorist since the early years of George Carlin and Steve Martin, whose live performances had you leaning on complete strangers to help support your racked-with-laughter body to keep you off the floor. Forget polite sophisticated chuckles--these were open-mouthed, tears down your cheeks, ugly-faced guffaws. You never finished a drink before the carbonation went flat...you knew there'd not be even one safe second to swallow before an explosive laugh might send that sparkly beverage spraying out your nose. Sedaris even had the added unique ability to get you laughing at those never before funny, tough memories we all share--those growing up rights of passage moments that elicit laughter through tears. He was (and is) that good at observing life and the ridiculous humor in the everyday.
Maybe I've lost my funny bone, but it seemed like something was missing with this latest collection. I never felt the urge to rewind and listen again, and at times found myself giving an obligatory chuckle out of respect for a comedic genius that has shared better comedy. He is still observant and witty; several of the pieces were great, but there was not much that seemed new and crisp, nothing to catch you off guard and slap you silly. There's a dusty air of reflection, even melancholy, in a few of the pieces that set a tone that stayed with me, in spite of some sunnier funnier bits. But then, maybe unfairly, I always compare his latest to his greatest, the one that had me afraid to drink a Coke even alone at home--Me Talk Pretty One Day; several guffaws better that hooting it up here with the owls.
Fans of Sedaris will still enjoy this, and will probably get plenty of laughs that make it worth the price of admission. Anything that can lift our spirits, give us a little enjoyment, and make us smile is worthwhile, afterall. *Worth mentioning: not a great or consistent production. As usual, there are live bits which you expect to be a little tougher to listen to, but even the studio recorded pieces are tinny and inferior.
Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always."
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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This book starts out funny and witty in wonderful Sedaris style, but then gets very political. I turn off the TV to get away from all the different view points. I barely made it to the end.
Books have always been an escape for me: initially from my studies, now from too much work. A good story is my favorite remedy.
David Sedaris' own narration is incredible. I cannot imagine anyone delivering this work any better
...some amusing, some side-splitting, all thought-provoking.
Audible brings the printed word to vibrant life. It's such fun to listen while driving or doing the chores.
I read this book after a day of thwarted effort, and it was a perfect escape, a pleasurable dive into David Sedaris's quirky, sharply observed, and often hilarious world.
Audiobooks offer a more intimate, warmer reading experience than the printed page, and Mr. Sedaris's work is a perfect fit for Audible. He performs well, and possesses the gift of mimicry, and hearing him read his own writing heightens the reading experience for the listener, makes it more immediate and alive.
I also like the musical stings that set up each essay reading in the audiobook, but the sound capture on some of the live performance segments wasn't very good. Not a show-stopper but I don't need to hear a audience clapping or laughing to find a given segment funny.
The audio may enhance the work, but the content is what really draws you in and holds you. Mr. Sedaris takes the humdrum and turns it into an opportunity to learn, to observe an unfolding cultural narrative. The simple act of standing in line to board a plane becomes a broad comedy of social manners; his interaction with a telemarketer from a far-away place launches him into an unexpected and poignant story about white privilege in the American south.
Mr. Sedaris writes about personal stuff, but never self-indulgently. Coming of age, his troubles with addiction, his personal obsessions, all are inputs into his essays. But his writing makes them so much more than personal family anecdotes: they have the ring of familiarity, of a universal cultural experience, especially for baby boomers.
Many of us recognize The Father who can only criticize and challenge and sometimes beat the son, and, more broadly, the struggle to communicate that exists in families. He also explores the enormous power that families have to define us, to give meaning to our lives.
Mr. Sedaris comments about his lifelong daily diarizing habit as recording life rather than living it. But his voice is that of someone watching in puzzlement and appreciation, not judgment or a sense of aggrievement.
My favourite essays in the book involve his everyday experience as an American abroad, where ordinary errands become adventures in cultural and social exploration.
At times, the humour is laced with empathy. At other times, the author employs more edgy satire. This is especially apparent in the essays at the end, where he skewers the politics of hatred and bigotry, taking the idea to absurd extremes. I found these stories less interesting because I think they are pure imagination, rather than grounded in observation and experience. Similarly, his dog poems, like the title itself, seemed contrived to me, and this is why I gave this wonderful book a rating of 4 instead of 5.
Since I buy David Sedaris's books not for their titles, but for his unique voice, his wonderful storytelling, comic timing, and brilliant turns of phrase--and I'm still laughing about his description of Australia as "Canada in a thong"--I'd highly recommend "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls".
It's not very often that I finish a book and realize that I'm not exactly sure what I read. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I first picked up a David Sedaris book. But after finish Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls I feel as though I got just a small glimpse into his rambling mind. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls is a novel that has nothing to do with anything. It's a random assortment with almost no cohesion of essays that David Sedaris has written over the years.
If you enjoy a dry witty sense of humor like I do you will find this an enjoyable read. If that isn't your cup of tea or your not already a fan of David Sedaris you probably will want to steer clear of this one. Out of the many essays that are in this compilation very few actually resonated with me past reading them. It's the sort of book that I enjoyed almost all of it but nothing had the lasting power that I was hoping for when picking up this book.
For me Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls is one of the oddest compilations I've read. I've had such little exposure to David Sedaris in the past that jumping into this novel felt like I was going into the deep end. I never quite figured out what was going on but I at least enjoyed the ride while it lasted.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
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.
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!
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