This is my third David Sedaris book, and by now I’m fairly familiar with his writing style and know what to expect from him. I’ve enjoyed all three books (the first two being Barrel Fever and When You Are Engulfed in Flames) and can easily recommend them. Most of what I said in my review of When You Are Engulfed in Flames can be applied here, so I’ll try not to repeat too much of it.
For those unfamiliar with him, David Sedaris publishes collections of essays about his personal life and presents them in a humorous manner. He uses a lot of observational humor about the everyday jerk you might encounter in a checkout line, on a bus, in your own family, etc. He’s also got a dry wit, so nothing is ever felt forced onto the reader. He’s also very well traveled, so you get a sense that he knows what he’s talking about.
I enjoyed Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls more than When You Are Engulfed in Flames (and possible more than Barrel Fever; I don’t remember much of it aside from the Macy’s Elf story), and I think that’s because I got a better sense of variety from these stories. With the previous book, I remember feeling like while I enjoyed it, a lot of the essays felt kind of samey, mostly involving him getting either drunk of high and telling the reader about what happened afterwards. Don’t quote me on that, though. That’s just what I happen to remember feeling.
With this book, however, I felt each essay stood out more. You could still classify most of them as either about his family, his friends, or his travels, but I still felt there was more diversity.
There’s also a few short chapters written as fiction, or at least some sort of fiction. David Sedaris isn’t narrating these himself, it’s more like he’s playing a character in an exaggerated story. For example, in “Just a Quick E-mail,” the narrator is a spoiled, wealthy woman writing a sarcastic thank you message for a wedding gift from another woman. The narrator insults her because it was merely a gift certificate for pizza, but as the story goes on we find out the narrator has crippled the other woman in a car accident and stole her husband, all while criticizing her throughout this E-mail.
In another story, “Health-Care Freedoms and Why I Want My Country Back,” the narrator is a very right-wing mother and basically bashes Obama throughout the entire chapter. She enlists help from her left-wing son to make her protests more effective, and while she believes he’s helping her it’s obvious to the reader that he’s setting her up for failure. Some reviews I’ve read have criticized these short stories, but I thought they were a welcome mix into an already diverse collection of essays.
In regards to the essays themselves, some of my favorites revolved around David Sedaris’ father. A stubborn man that refuses to believe he’s wrong, he makes for a very interesting character, at least the way David Sedaris writes him. In reality I can imagine the frustration he must have felt growing up with him, if not from experiences with my own father than from other male figureheads, but for the purposes of this read he was an extremely entertaining antagonist. I especially enjoyed “The Happy Place,” in which his father continuously nags David Sedaris to get a colonoscopy (which has been happening since his twenties) after receiving his first one. When he finally does, he jokingly tells his father the doctor found cancer. His father believes him and shows rare emotional support to him, while his sister mouths that he’s going to hell while David Sedaris embraces the comfort before revealing it was a joke.
I don’t feel like I can do any of his stories justice by summarizing them, so definitely go read a copy of this book if you haven’t already. He’s a pretty funny guy — the only thing I think people might not like him for is his political views. He’s left wing, and it shows, but honestly unless that alone is going to turn you off I think you’re going to have a good time with this one.
Thanks for reading! Hope you’re having a great week! 🙂
Info for my edition of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls:
- Published 2014 by Back Bay Books
- Paperback, 288 pages
- ISBN 978-0-316-15470-3