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.

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Daily Trivia : Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison, born in Wiltshire, England in 1672. Along with his friend Richard Steele, Addison was an essayist for The Tatler, a newspaper that covered London’s political and social elite.

When The Tatler ceased production in 1711, Steele and Addison formed The Spectator, with the intent to “enliven Morality with Wit, and to temper Wit with Morality.” The Spectator offered a single, long essay every day but Sunday, on subjects ranging from fashion to literary criticism.

It was narrated by the fictitious Mr. Spectator, whose “Spectator’s Club” included a cast of characters to entertain, comment on affairs of the day, and teach moral lessons.

The most memorable of these characters was Sir Roger de Coverly who has been described as follows:

“No character in our literature, not even Mr Pickwick has more endeared himself to successive generations of readers than Addison’s Sir Roger de Coverley: there are many figures in drama and fiction of whom we feel that they are in a way personal friends of our own, that once introduced to us they remain a permanent part of our little world.

It is the abiding glory of Dickens, it is one of Shakespeare’s abiding glories, to have created many such: but we look to find these characters in the novel or the play: the essay by virtue of its limitations of space is unsuited for character-studies.

But here before the birth of the modern English novel we have a full-length portrait of such a character as we have described, in addition to a number of other more sketchy but still convincing delineations of English types.

We are brought into the society of a fine old-fashioned country gentleman, simple, generous, and upright, with just those touches of whimsicality and those lovable faults which go straight to our hearts: and all so charmingly described that these Essays have delighted all who have read them since they first began to appear on the breakfast-tables of the polite world in Queen Anne’s day.”

One of the paper’s biggest fans was Benjamin Franklin, who admitted in his autobiography that he had modeled his prose after Addison’s essays.

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

I am currently reading two books :

quiet-book

 

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.