I think I’ve read just about every word David Sedaris has ever written. As an aspiring author, I’m obsessed with his ability to turn a phrase in the most clever and subversive ways. I bought Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls as soon as it came out last year but, since I always have a mile-high stack of books waiting to be read on my nightstand, I only got around to reading it this summer. And as I suspected I would, I read the first page and immediately wished I’d gotten to it sooner.
Like his other books, Let’s Explore is a collection of essays, short stories, musings, and anecdotes, some likely true, some clearly fabricated by the author’s delightfully warped mind, all thoroughly enjoyable. One of the things I love most about Sedaris is how he doesn’t hold back: he shoots from the hip and says things that most of us (or at least I) would be afraid to say. This particular gift of his shines through throughout the book.
A few highlights:
Sedaris recounts the experience of being an American living in France during the 2008 election.
So then, of course, it did happen. And everyone was like, “Obama!” Even people I didn’t personally know, cashiers at the supermarket and such who identified me by my accent. “Obama!” they cried, and, “You did good.” I’d like to say that their tone was congratulatory, but there was something else in there as well. Not, “How wonderful that you have a thoughtful new president” but “How wonderful that you elected that president we thought you should elect.”
A coming-of-age account of boyhood friendship and the inclination to capture and unintentionally kill small critters.
With Shaun, though, I could almost be myself. This didn’t mean that we were alike, only that he wasn’t paying that much attention. Childhood, for him, seemed something to be endured, passed through like a tiresome stretch of road. Ahead of this was the good stuff, and looking at him from time to time, at the way he had of staring off, of boring a hole into the horizon, you got the sense that he could not only imagine it but actually see it: this great grown-up life, waiting on the other side of sixteen.
#2 to Go
In which Sedaris reaffirms my fear of traveling to the Far East.
This was what I had grown accustomed to when we flew from Narita to Beijing Capital International, where the first thing you notice is what sounds like a milk steamer, the sort a café uses when making lattes and cappuccinos. That’s odd, you think. There’s a coffee bar on the elevator to the parking deck? What you’re hearing, that incessant guttural hiss, is the sound of one person, and then another, dredging up phlegm, seemingly from the depths of his or her soul. At first you look over, wondering, Where are you going to put that? A better question, you soon realize, is Where aren’t you going to put that?
All in all, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is a fun read—perhaps not Sedaris’s most memorable effort, but a page-turner worth spending a languid Sunday afternoon with nonetheless.