It’s always hit or miss with David Sedaris. His most brilliant work often involves his family and always involves some personal flaw. His worst work, which can be offensive, belligerent, and nausea inducing, usually involves his views on politics. I don’t mind David Sedaris having political views or hating conservative-I just don’t want to find these tirades grouped together with his more traditional humor and nostalgia pieces. Like Squirrel Seeks Chipmonk, I’d like it better if he wrote this stuff under another name and collected them in separate books, perhaps only available in Iran or North Korea and then written in Swahili.
The bulk of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is David Sedaris’ usual quirky style of personal reminisces that are deceptively casual in their delivery, making you feel like he’s just rattling them off the top of his head. David’s so good at making brilliant observations about incredibly mundane and uninteresting subjects that anyone who reads him can’t help but think, hell, I could write this crap. Which causes David to include a little essay here about how he has been saving little snippets of life in a notebook for the past forty years or so, writing them down in his diary every day, and eventually culling through them to create his little masterpieces. This was a fun little piece that gives us a window into David’s creative life, but it was far from the best bit of business here.
I laughed out loud several times, the best laughs for me coming in the finial passages of Pimsleur Additional Material specifically create for David Sedaris. Two or three other essays were winners as well, but several were duds and his contributions to “Forensics” are just flat horrible and should not have been included in this book.
One of David’s hallmarks had always been the ability to make the reader relate to what he is talking about. Who hasn’t had a bad stretch once in a while? Who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with their parents? Their siblings? Their classmates? Their goals? But in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David spends a lot of time talking about what a hardship it is to live in foreign countries, to constantly travel to exotic locations, and to have more money than God. I think the tale that turned me off was when David and Hugh bought a place in Sussex, England-“Give these people what they’re asking, and do it today so we can get started.” Hugh said. I’m assuming David had the asking price in his pocket, as that’s just walking around money to him now.
I still like David Sedaris and this was still a damned good book. Like all mega-successful writers, David could use a guiding hand in the form of an Editor-but being a mega-successful writer, he clearly doesn’t think he needs one.