What do a 10 lb box of condoms, a taxidermy owl and a life-size model of a human throat all have in common?
…………….No, not that, you filthy animals.
Well, maybe that. But also this: They are all the subject of hilarious essays in David Sedaris’ new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.
In this, his 7th collection of autobiographical essays and short stories, America’s greatest humorist (IMHO) takes us on a journey from a suburban Costco, to his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to feeding Kookaburas in the Australian bush- all with the cunning wit and sharp observations of a perpetual outsider.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Sedaris do a reading of this book here in Toronto. It was a bit of a surreal experience for me, because having read all of his books, I sort of felt like I knew him already. I could tell you intimate details about his family, his childhood, even about his days as a meth-addicted starving artist. I had the urge to blurt out “How’s Amy?” (his famous sister) at one point, but then I remembered that I don’t actually know her at all, and wisely refrained.
He spoke for over an hour, reading several pieces from the book, as well as sharing anecdotes from his tour thus far. He was witty, sharp, and incredibly gracious and welcoming of his fans – except for the fact that he had a very strict no picture policy. Luckily, I am a master sweet-talker who no man (even a gay one) can say no to, so I was able to
superimpose my head onto some random man’s body convince him to take this one with me:
I think it’s a framer.
Anywhoo- back to the review.
Longtime fans of Sedaris might find Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls a bit of a departure from his earlier works. Whereas Naked and Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim focused primarily on his childhood and coming of age tales; this collection delves more into his current, adult life and day-to-day encounters. If you’re open to it, this can be a refreshing change. We learn a lot more about his relationship with his partner Hugh in this collection, as well as receive an unexpected glimpse into his writing process with an essay on the diary he has kept since 1977. He also shares hilarious, cutting observations of the people in line with him at the Airport and Starbucks that are laugh-out-loud funny, and make you wish he was your best friend in real life.
Throughout it all, you get a sense of what makes him tick; a behind the scenes look at the grown-up David Sedaris.
Interspersed throughout the book are several pieces of short fiction, which Sedaris explains were written to be recited by teenagers at forensics competitions. Some are comic monologues; others are biting satires of right-wing ideals. I have to admit, these pieces were not my favourite. I found them too far afield from his regular style, and a bit too political for my liking.
That being said, overall, I still thought this book was great- perfect for a plane ride, a Friday night in, or a weekend at the cottage. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, and has felt like an outsider once or twice in their life.
On that note, the winner of my David Sedaris book giveaway IS: (drumroll please, assistant:)
…Ross! E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address to claim your prize!
(And just to be clear, anyone else is free to e-mail me at that address too. You know, if you wanna like, talk about the new season of Arrested Development, or who Desiree should pick on The Bachelorette. Whatever really. I’m basically just very lonely. )