Me talk pretty one day by David Sedaris

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This is another interesting collection of essays and stories by David Sedaris. The man has an eccentric and downright weird sense of humour.

His books are not the kind that will appeal to everyone (reviews on goodreads swing wildly between the one star ‘I can’t believe people read this crap’ to the five star ‘I love this man!”, kind of gushing with very few people coming down in the middle.)

But if you like his books, you will really like them. Sedaris writes about ordinary, everyday things. He seems to be of the opinion that nothing is too small to write about.

Not everyone finds that sort of thing interesting, but if (like me) you do, then he is just the writer for you.

Now about Me Talk Pretty One Day, there is a lot here that I liked and some that I couldn’t bring myself to read all the way through. But on the whole, I enjoyed it.

There are stories here about growing up gay in the 1970’s and trying desperately to fit in, dreaming of being an artist, becoming a drug addict, living in New York, the weirdness of modern, experimental cuisine, living in France and struggling to learn the language and so on.

Some of the stories are warm and engaging, some are funny, some of them made my heart ache…and then there are others that I wish he’d never written. They seemed a bit pointless, to be honest.

But on the whole, I liked it. Here is a sample:

“Every day we’re told that we live in the greatest country on earth. And it’s always stated as an undeniable fact: Leos are born between July 23 and August 22, fitted queen-size sheets measure sixty by eighty inches, and America is the greatest country on earth. Having grown up with this in our ears, it’s startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are ‘We’re number two!”

“On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned “Lie down,” “Shut up,” and “Who shit on this carpet?” The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. “Is thems the thoughts of cows?” I’d ask the butcher, pointing to the calves’ brains displayed in the front window.”

“In order to get the things I want, it helps me to pretend I’m a figure in a daytime drama, a schemer. Soap opera characters make emphatic pronouncements. They ball up their fists and state their goals out loud. ‘I will destroy Buchanan Enterprises,’ they say. ‘Phoebe Wallingford will pay for what she’s done to our family.’ Walking home with the back half of the twelve-foot ladder, I turned to look in the direction of Hugh’s loft. ‘You will be mine,’ I commanded.”

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Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

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This is one of the funniest, most poignant, most touching books that I have read in recent times. This is a collection of essays, observations on life,  part memoir and part opinion. Sedaris has a unique take on life and an ability to observe it in all its shades and to somehow find the humour and poignancy of it all.

There are a lot of humorous writers out there. What makes Sedaris different is that he finds humour in the mundane.  A lot of the time, he writes about himself and his family. He is very self deprecating and his cheerful admission of his faults and his foibles serves to make him even more charming.

This book begins with a quest for a stuffed owl that Sedaris wants to get Hugh (his partner) for Valentine’s day and goes on to talk about his experiences with dentistry in France (one of the funniest bits of writing I have come across in a while) to growing up in a large family at a time before “parenting” was invented.

It is clear that he has some very painful memories of his childhood, but he writes about them in a way that is not at all dramatic and all the more poignant for that. There are stories here about the pitfalls of learning a foreign language (again very funny), to President Obama’s election, to getting a colonoscopy, to the conservative reaction to gay marriage…there are a few pieces here that are bitingly satirical, but easy reading all the same.

I heard the audio of this book and the fact that it was Sedaris himself doing the reading made it even more enjoyable.

I have a new favourite author : David Sedaris

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David Sedaris is one of the most brilliant writers that I have come across in recent times.  He is fifty-six years old and he has clearly lived a full and interesting life. But his bio on his website says only that:

David Sedaris is a playwright and a regular commentator for National Public Radio. He is also the author of the bestselling Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on IceDress Your Family in CorduroyDenimWhen You Are Engulfed in Flames and Me Talk Pretty One Day. He travels extensively though Europe and the United States on lecture tours and lives in France.

That’s it. But it doesn’t need to say anything else, because all his books are about him, his partner, his family, his travels, experiences and observations. Sedaris writes essays on…any subject that catches his fancy really and he does a wonderful job of it. He has a unique perspective on life and he shares it with an honestly that can can be quite disarming.

Reading a book of his is like sitting down to a conversation with an old and very dear friend. He is funny, outrageously so. He can make me laugh until my sides ache. He is witty and observant and charmingly eccentric. He pokes fun at himself and his family and the world in general. He has a fund of stories to share from his childhood, his travels abroad, living as an immigrant first in France and then in England, the pitfalls of learning a foreign language and so on.

But it is not all about fun with him. Some of the stories he tells are painful and poignant, thoughtful and moving. And he tells them so well. It is his honesty that gets me every time. You cannot possibly read a book of his and come away unaffected. The audio version of his books are even better because they are read by Sedaris himself and his voice and the way he reads his books contribute immensely to the quality of the experience.

After a very long time, I have met an author about whom I can say that I want to buy every one of his books and hoard them.

 

Current Reading : Quiet and Let’s explore Diabetes with Owls

I am currently reading two books :

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. 

Synopsis:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favour working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labelled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical mega church, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects.

She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child…

I am an introvert and I’ve never had a problem with it, but I do find it hard to explain to people why I need be quiet and why I need a few hours of alone time every day. I’m only around a hundred pages into this book and I can tell you that it is very good. Reading it feels like a validation of sorts.

The second book is:

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Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (Yes, that is the actual title. It is so delightfully eccentric, I love it.)

Synopsis:

A guy walks into a bar car and…

From here the story could take many turns. When this guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humour and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.

Sedaris remembers his father’s dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants), his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant), and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered Pygmy.

With Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris shows once again why his work has been called “hilarious, elegant, and surprisingly moving”.

This is a collection of essays, observations on life, a recounting of experiences, part memoir and part opinion. I’ve been listening to this book on audio. It is read by the author himself and it is delightful. It is also the first time that I have ever preferred the audio of a book over reading it. David Sedaris is brilliant. He writes extremely well and he makes the book even better in the way he reads it.