David Sedaris became one of my favorite authors after reading Me Talk Pretty One Day. He does a great job at finding humor in pretty depressive topics, like an eclectic, erratic family dynamic, some cartoonish and lackluster primary school teachers, a stint with methamphetamine, and routinely dehumanizing relationships.
This book could be considered a personal memoir in loose chronological order – starting with Sedaris’ family in North Carolina, following him in New York in his early to mid-twenties, and his brief rendezvous with his boyfriend in France. We can assume it is somewhat of an autobiography, as the sister in the novel is so clearly real-life sister Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy, appearances in Broad City, Sex and the City, etc), whose “tanorexia” is a focal point in David’s earlier years in the memoir.
His speech impediment, in which he fails to pronounce the letter “s” clearly and exhibits a rather embarrassing lisp, is a running joke throughout the book. While things like these make us cringe, feel embarrassed, etc, Sedaris puts a funny spin on every obstacle he himself overcomes in real time by humorously penning it in his memoirs. There is one instance in which he cites a primary school teacher (I believe it was his 5th grade teacher) who makes a point to out little David to the entire class whenever he does go to his speech classes. Sedaris thinks she gets pleasure from his embarrassment, saying, “I bet when I’m absent she does that. The teacher will say, “Well its 2 pm! David isn’t here, but if he was, he’d be going to speech class right now!’ to the entire class”.
It’s pretty obvious that most of these “vignettes” seem to exist on their own rather than complement each other. It would appear that Sedaris wrote these more as a collection of essays rather than one fluid “novel”. This made it a little hard for me to read, however, there isn’t exactly a clear plot; more like a string of nuances in the life of David Sedaris. And it helps that his writing is laugh out loud funny – one of the hardest feats for a writer, in my opinion – so there is a lot of comic relief that breaks the hard lines of plot discord.
As a side note, Sedaris is scheduled to visit New Orleans on October 25th at the Orpheum Theater, celebrating the paperback release of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.