Sunday, August 4, 2013

Laughing Through My Commute with Sedaris

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
(Little, Brown and Company / Hachette Audio, 2013)
Format: audio download via library (narrated by David Sedaris)

From Goodreads: "From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler's experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist's shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten."

If you're not familiar with David Sedaris - well, fix that. Also, probably you're wrong, because you'll have heard him on This American Life or somewhere. (You do have a podcast directory full of NPR and books-chat podcasts like me, don't you?) (Oh! Check out Book Riot's fairly new-to-the-scene podcast - it's a great deal of fun.)

When my awesome niece stayed with me for a few weeks this summer and joined me on my commute to work, I took the opportunity to correct some of the vast oversights of her cultural education. (I'm nice that way.) (Also opinionated.) (BUT good at my job - after all, I also introduced her to the deep and abiding joy of the BBC / Colin Firth version of Pride & Prejudice last time she stayed with me. Also Project Runway. I think we can all agree those are valuable additions to anyone's cultural landscape.) Anyhoo, this time I sent her home having seen Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and having listened to David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day and Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. (The poor girl. Even I was nauseated by some of the food stuff happening in both Python and Sedaris, and she's a vegetarian.) 

My point here is that Sedaris is hilarious. He mines the fallow field of his relationship with his dad for material, as well as the joys of travel, home-owning, and talk radio. It's quite a lot of mining, all told, and he tells it brilliantly. There's a good deal of absurdity and middle-aged angst and ranting about people who rant about Obama, and it's basically Mel Crack, is what it is. With an overlay of nausea, because part of the humor is the going just too far when describing, for example, how he feels about Chinese food, or what kinds of refuse he finds along the roads near his rural English home. This collection didn't have anything as dangerous to my successful operation of heavy machinery as The Youth in Asia or Six to Eight Black Men, but still, we laughed and laughed.

It's great to read Sedaris, but orders of magnitude better for him to read to me. He's superb with his material. Perfect timing, and inflections that just make everything more pointed and intensely comic.

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