The BUZZ: An oldie but a goodie, this gem from David Sedaris was published in 2000 and became an NYT bestseller, like all of Sedaris’ books. I picked it up at the library book sale and dug right in.
The GIST: These twenty-eight semi-autobiographical essays are split into two parts. Part One starts with Sedaris’ failed speech therapy as a 9-year-old and moves through other less than stellar childhood moments: guitar lessons, performance art, drug abuse, pets loved and lost, and misogyny. The book is dedicated to Sedaris’ father, Lou, who figures prominently in many of the stories, a lovable yet micro-managing father of six. The only child he completely understands is the son who speaks mostly in rap, Rooster. The second half of the book is a set of sketches of Sedaris’ life in France with his partner, Hugh. This could all be pretty mundane in different hands, but it’s David Sedaris we’re talking about: everything is funny, and even when it’s a little sad or embarrassing or horrifying, it will still make you laugh out loud.
The WRITING: Entertaining and clever. It’s only possible to write funny if you are funny, and Sedaris clearly has a brilliant wit. In his stories of himself as a young boy you can see how his keen sense of the ridiculous evolved. Now Sedaris is a master of satire – as someone once said, he’s like the love child of James Thurber and Dorothy Parker. A perfect mixture of dry and wicked wit; nothing is sacrosanct here.
BUY or BORROW?: Borrow. Or buy at a book sale. Whatever you spend, it will be well worth it. If you need a self-deprecating, no-holds-barred lift at the end of a long day, Sedaris is your guy.
As a child I’d always harbored a sneaking suspicion that I might be a genius. The theory was completely my own, corroborated by no one, but so what? Being misunderstood was part of the package. My father occasionally referred to me as “Smart Guy,” but eventually I realized that when saying it he usually meant just the opposite.
“Hey, Smart Guy – coating your face with mayonnaise because you can’t find the insect repellent.”
“Hey, Smart Guy, thinking you can toast marshmallows in your bedroom.”
That type of thing.