With David Sedaris, you know what you're getting into when you begin one of his books. It's going to be snarky. It's going to be crass. But most of all, it's going to be funny. And nothing is off limits in his most recent book, "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls."
For whatever reason, Sedaris has a wealth of childhood and adult experiences from which to craft his self-deprecating essays. He knows his life is odd, yet he still documents it in a way that has made him hugely successful. And he has thousands of journals he has meticulously kept since the late '70s to prove it. Sedaris is the author of eight books and essay collections, edited an anthology collection ("Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules") and has written more than 40 essays for the New Yorker and Esquire magazines.
Luckily, the New Yorker is not one of the 17 magazines my husband and I receive each month in the mail, so these were all new essays to me. But the book is a compilation of his previously published material, so it may be more familiar to others.
What I enjoy most about Sedaris are his rants disguised as political commentary. He goes to extremes to make a point and when the laughing is over, questions are raised about our actions as a society. In the "Just a Quick E-Mail" essay, the absurdity of the author's requests gives an insight to the world of bullying and social pressures. And what I've dubbed the Kardashian effect: how much is too much?
In "Author, Author," which is about a writer on a book tour, Sedaris discusses the lengths he goes to for "priority signers." "In 2004, I offered priority signing to smokers, the reason being that, because they didn't have as long to live, their time was more valuable. Four years later my special treatment was reserved for men who stood five-foot-six and under It seemed unfair to restrict myself to men, so I included any woman with braces on her teeth." Again Sedaris mocks our society's rules for political correctness while making a point: we can't please everyone, no matter how hard we try, so we might as well tick some people off and have some fun in the process.
"Understanding Understanding Owls" makes light of our desire to have so much crap under the guise of a "collection." For Sedaris and his boyfriend, it's owls owl mugs, cocktail napkins, candles, trivet, Christmas ornaments and, of course, the stuffed owl from the taxidermist. But most of all, what I love about Sedaris is how he tells a weird story about some extreme situation in his life that couldn't possibly apply to my life, but in the end, it does.
The best, and saddest, story of this collection is "Loggerheads," when a vacation to Hawaii causes Sedaris to recall the time he and a childhood friend attempted to raise a bunch baby turtles they found on the beach. He goes to the library to learn more, only to witness a startling event and come home without the necessary information for the turtles to live. "Feed them raw hamburger meat," he tells his mother when she asked what he learned. And as he describes the smell of rotting baby turtles in his room you realize there's a moral in this story. But you have to get to the end to find it.