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3.0 out of 5 starsNot his best work
Reviewed in the United States on November 5, 2017
Big long-time fan of DS. This is not up to his best stuff, and is inconsistent: there are some first-rate essays but also some duds. Also he has both essays (true memoirs) mixed with stories (fiction), and in general the stories are dark and upsetting and poor, besides the fact that unlike in earlier collections which divide essays and stories this book has them intermingled and sometimes the reader can't tell for pages if it's real or weird and whose voice am I listening to. If you're a big fan you will still enjoy some of the better pieces, but overall it's a pass.
Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2018
I don't love the fantasy characters... I'm usually reading just before bed and I get caught thinking "huh, what?- what's going on here?" And then I must smile and think "David, you jerk" because even those outlandish descriptions get my mind working. The stories are always a treat. But more so I give his books as gifts to people, mostly teenagers, to realize- we are all flawed. We all suffer.... We're all jerks.... Roll with it and accept it Which is how I discovered David Sedaris. A colleague gave me Holidays on Ice because he couldn't quiet relay the Elf adventure in conversation "you just have to read it" . I laughed out loud throughout, and it helped me realize that it's OK and life is really funny if you just pay attention to it. Don't let the bastards get you down
Good news for this author if he's planning another trip to China: the Chinese and the Indians are in a race to see how quickly they can sanitize their respective countries. They are competing to see who can build the most toilets. No more making do with a hole in the ground, or what my niece, who spent six months in China calls a 'squattie' (she accidentally dropped her cell phone in one). Don't do what I did and read "#2 to Go" while eating lunch. Not only does David talk about Chinese sanitary habits, he also dives into the dark side of their cuisine. Fried rooster blood, anyone?
The owl in the title is stuffed. The author's partner, Hugh collected owl knick-knacks (not voluntarily--people started giving them to him when they found out he liked owls) and David wanted to top off his friend's collection with a stuffed owl. Unfortunately, taxidermists are not allowed to stuff owls in this country, even if the bird died of old age. When David and Hugh moved to France, they were stymied by the same law. However, although you can't kill an owl in England, you can have it stuffed once it's dead. David's trip to the English taxidermy shop is one of the highlights of this book:
"'If you like the odd bits and pieces, I think I've got something else you might enjoy.' The taxidermist retreated to the area behind his desk and pulled a plastic bag off an overhead shelf...From the bag he removed what looked like a platter with an oblong glass dome over it. Inside was a man's forearm, complete with little hairs and a smudged tattoo..."
The severed arm had a story behind it as do all of the odd bits and pieces that this author collects and shares with his readers. Some of the essays in "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" are fantasies of what life might be like for a red-neck, right-wing voter. This is where the author ventures into Jonathan Swift's territory: heavy-handed satire, but witty. Very witty. These essays made me wonder what Sedaris thinks of the current Republican candidate for President.
I hope he writes an essay (or an entire book about the 2016 Presidential Race). He's one of the few authors who could do this subject justice.
Meanwhile, read this book and find out what David Sedaris thinks of the Chinese, Germans, the English, dentists, book tours, the lines at airports, and Pygmy skeletons.
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2014
I am having trouble reviewing this book. Sedaris has written eight books that I have loved, and would recommend to anyone. They are all brilliant and entertaining, to varying degrees. Here, however, is something less impressive. There is a part missing here, or different, or unpolished.
I can’t say that the themes have changed, because they have not, in any general way. The world that he explores these themes in, however, feels unrecognizable. His newer subjects (his wealthy lifestyle and politics) are less relevant, perhaps, to me. A writer can speak only so long on the subject of a summer home in Normandy, or luxury goods, before one risks losing me. As to David’s politics, they are self-admittedly uninformed and beg the question of why he would waste his enormous talent on them at all.
As to the Sedaris humor, while it is present, it was dull, and only once or twice approached his best work. Maybe he was consciously downplaying it, moving it to the edge of the stage, and moving other things forward: Poignancy, topical relevance, something. It didn’t work. At times, I felt like David was writing so that people would use the word “touching” or “moving” in their reviews, instead of “funny” or “sardonic”.
Now, I want to respect an artist who is trying to evolve. “Squirrel Seeks…” was a completely different side of David, and I loved it. This does not feel like evolution, however, it feels like going back to the old well again and finding it no longer draws clear water. There are a few real gems here, certainly. David remains a very talented writer. There are just not enough gems to carry the book. On the whole, I wish David had waited to collect more prime material before publishing.
5.0 out of 5 starsOne of My Favorites from Sedaris
Reviewed in the United States on June 14, 2017
Though I’ve recognized Mr. Sedaris’ name from various essays and stories I’ve seen of his in magazines, I only recently started reading his collections. I would rate this one of his better ones. I find that he is at his best when he is writing about his family and friends in a mode that indicates more nonfiction than fiction. He is weaker when he’s writing something that is clearly fiction. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is filled primarily with his strengths.
The fact is, I do not laugh easily when I’m reading. Any author who can make me laugh aloud as often as Mr. Sedaris does with this book is going to get my recommendation. And I’m going to delve soon into another one of his collections.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 24, 2019
No matter what is happening in my life, I love slipping into the world of David Sedaris. This book was no different. From the first page, I was lost. The world around me washed away and there was nothing left but colonoscopies and litter picking. I laughed out loud and genuinely worried while reading, drinking coffee and wearing white pants at the same time. I'm only sad to have finished it. X
David Sedaris can always be relied upon to raise some laughs and this was no exception. That said I didn't love this book quite as much as some of his previous work. While I would recommend Naked or Dress Your Family higher than this I'd still recommend this recent volume to anyone who wants to chuckle their way through a collection of irreverent and semi-nonsensical, personal anecdotes.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 17, 2018
I only read this because it was this month's Book Club choice. The title has nothing to do with the book's content. I found some of the content unpleasant, especially the verses at the end which I didn't bother to read all the way through. You need to have a dark sense of humour for this book.
Rather a mixed bag, but an effortless read which kept a smile on my face. Hard to say exactly why I like it. Never know where to find David's work in a bookshop. Closest category I can think of is autobiography, but somehow that doesn't quite fit.
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother fantastic collection of bittersweet comic essays from Mr Sedaris
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 16, 2018
With an engaging writing style and sharp wordplay David Sedaris draws you into his world. A world which travels from Raleigh North Carolina in the 1970s through early millennium France and to present day West Sussex.
His approach to the subject matter is so endearing, so darkly comic that you will devour each story with gusto and be disappointed when you have finished the book.