Dear diary

17 08 2019

Theft by Finding- Diaries Volume One by David Sedaris

 

 

The point is to find out who you are and to be true to that person. Because so often you can’t. Won’t people turn away if they know the real me? you wonder. The me that hates my own child, that put my perfectly healthy dog to sleep? The me who thinks, deep down, that maybe The Wire was overrated?

For nearly four decades, David Sedaris has faithfully kept a diary in which he records his thoughts and observations on the odd and funny events he witnesses. Anyone who has attended a live Sedaris event knows that his diary readings are often among the most joyful parts of the evening. But never before have they been available in print. Now, inTheft by Finding, Sedaris brings us his favorite entries. From the family home in Ralegh, North Carolina, we follow Sedaris as he sets out to make his way in the world. As an art student and then teacher in Chicago he works at a succession of very odd jobs, meeting even odder people, before moving to New York to pursue a career as a writer – where instead he very quickly lands a job in Macy’s department store as an elf in Santaland…

 

As with the two other books of his I’ve read, Calypso and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, there is so much rich detail in here to enjoy. He has been described as an American Alan Bennett and you can understand why with the dry, droll, gentle and often hilarious observations and commentaries Sedaris offers here. Perhaps best consumed in small doses to avoid overloading but highly recommended.

four stars

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Sedaris step by step

1 06 2019

Calypso by David Sedaris

 

When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is exactly as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: it’s impossible to take a vacation from yourself.

With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories are very, very funny – it’s a book that can make you laugh ’til you snort, the way only family can. Sedaris’s writing has never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.

This is beach reading for people who detest beaches, required reading for those who loathe small talk and love a good tumour joke. Calypso is simultaneously Sedaris’s darkest and warmest book yet – and it just might be his very best.

I feel I’ve come rather late to Sedaris having only started reading (and hearing) him last year (see this previous post) but am trying to make up for lost time. Nevertheless, his latest recordings on Radio 4 appear to be his seventh series – I missed the previous six.

So it was a genuine delight to read one of his most recent collections, Calypso, which includes some more anecdotes about his extraordinarily ordinary family and much about holidays at the Sea Section. Then there are the lengths, literally, he goes to in order to get his steps in for the day. Most of these stories are wry, insightful, sharp and amusing. But some are genuinely laugh out loud hilarious. Very good indeed and looking forward to continuing to catch up.

 

four stars

 





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

 








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