Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

You just can't go wrong with David Sedaris, even with a collection that intermixes pieces of fiction with his usual humorous travel writing and essays about his neurotic obsessions. In Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc the "etc" refers to a few fictional monologues sprinkled throughout.

When Sedaris was in Edmonton in 2010, promoting Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, he shared anecdotes about air travel. Some of these -- including a description of flight attendants "crop dusting" passengers -- are incorporated in the essay 'Standing By.' I thought about this on my flight home from Vancouver yesterday... but didn't notice any foul odours.

A prodigious memory and strong storytelling skills make a dynamic combination. Sedaris manages to go off onto all kinds of tangents and yet tie the narrative threads neatly together in the end, making a personal story into something universal.

Here are some bits from 'Laugh, Kookaburra:'

"For an American, Australia seems pretty familiar: same wide streets, same office towers. It's Canada in a thong, or that's the initial impression."

"When seen full on, the feathers atop his head looked like brush-cut hair, and that gave him a brutish, almost conservative look. If owls were the professors of the avian kingdom, then kookaburras, I thought, might well be the gym teachers."

As a child, David and one of his sisters annoyed their father by repeatedly singing the kookaburra song, and the end result was a spanking. "As always after a paddling, I returned to my room vowing never to talk to my father again." He remembers simmering in his room, angry with his entire family, yet "knowing even then that without them, I was nothing. Not a son or a brother but just a boy -- and how could that ever be enough? As a full-grown man it seems no different. Cut off  your family, and how would you know who you are? Cut them off in order to gain success, and how could that success be measured? What would it possibly mean?"

Sedaris does comedy well. He also taps into common human fears and foibles. And dreams up some fabulous book titles!


Ryan said...

I listened to a fascinating interview with David Sedaris about this book on Fresh Air on NPR. Want to read it so badly!

Lindy said...

Ryan, check out Sedaris being interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. (It's available online.) It is hilarious, especially when they get to the part about whether or not straight men would share a single dessert in a restaurant.