Owlish anecdotes

22 07 2018

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

A guy walks into a bar . . .

From here the story could take many turns. A guy walks into a bar and meets the love of his life. A guy walks into a bar and finds no one else is there. When this guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless. In Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Sedaris delights with twists of humour and intelligence, remembering his father’s dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants) his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant) and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered pygmy. By turns hilarious and moving, David Sedaris masterfully looks at life’s absurdities as he takes us on adventures that are not to be forgotten.

He is a master of expanding on small observations and fragments of recollections. As the Guardian puts it:

All these superficially insignificant memories are preserved for later examination, like the dead animals that are a recurring theme – Sedaris seeks a rare stuffed owl as a gift for his partner, Hugh; his sister Gretchen carries around a jar full of dead insects to study. A joyous moment swimming with a giant sea turtle in Hawaii reminds Sedaris of how, aged 10, he captured a clutch of baby sea turtles and kept them at home for weeks, giving them minced beef to eat until their tank turned into a rancid turtle graveyard.

It’s a really entertaining and at times disturbing collection of well-honed and crafted tales which I found it was almost impossible not to read without hearing Sedaris’ voice. Anyway, having seen him read in Nottingham the other day (at a packed Royal Concert Hall) he really is very good value. Take a look at this recent commencement speech at Oberlin College for an example of his work:

Commencement Address 2018: David Sedaris from Oberlin College and Conservatory on Vimeo.

 

four stars

 





Vinyl dreams

14 07 2018

 

The Forensic Records Society by Magnus Mills

 

Two men with a passion for vinyl create a society for the appreciation of records. Their aim is simple: to elevate the art of listening by doing so in forensic detail. The society enjoys moderate success in the back room of their local pub, The Half Moon, with other enthusiasts drawn to the initial promise of the weekly gathering. The master of the comic deadpan returns for his ninth novel, a spectacularly disingenuous exploration of power, fanaticism and really, really good records.

 

A wonderful novel which two vinyl-loving musical purists launch a distinctive society, which meets in a local pub and is dedicated to listening to records (mainly singles) forensically. Others soon join in, each with their own musical preferences, but then there are ideological splits, the forensic records society fractures and different groups form, with alternative musical criteria. Nothing is ever quite as it seems in Magnus Mills’ novels though and, despite the matter of fact, plain deadpan style, strange things happen in the Half Moon pub, time seems to pass unevenly, the musical selections are eclectic to say the least and the undercurrents at play between the main characters are difficult to fathom. Ultimately, the forensics are very much left to the reader but it is nevertheless a highly entertaining and delightfully strange story.

(This brief review originally appeared in THE on 5 July.)

4.5 stars








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