by Kelly Rae Smith - published in Charleston City Paper July 16, 2013
Language Lessons and Donny Osmond
Self-deprecating writer and humorist David Sedaris never fails to be an absolute hoot. He returns to his mostly-memoir format with another riot of a book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. His last one, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, dealt with talking animals rather than entries from one of his many meticulously composed diaries.
Though no one can deny the hilarity that comes from giving a squirrel a bit of dialogue, we were pleased this time to get reacquainted with the Sedaris family, his boyfriend, Hugh, and the eccentricity that surrounds them all on a daily basis. His father at the dinner table in naught but underpants? Oh, how we missed him. His foul-mouthed mother? Somebody pour this dear another vodka.
A genius observer to say the least, Sedaris recalls killer scenes and conversations in grocery stores, coffee shops, airplanes, trains. In “Easy, Tiger,” he’s learning another language, this time with hilariously imagined German interpretations. He takes us on reading tours with “Author, Author,” giving out Tylenol and condoms to teenagers. His drunken train ride in “Guy Walks into a Bar Car,” turns surprisingly sentimental. And he acquaints us with his childhood resentment for Donny Osmond in “Memory Laps,” as always turning the bizarre into something both wildly funny as well as quietly reflective.
Sedaris also has a talent for being eloquently crude. Brilliantly inappropriate, he is all too happy to be frank about the shit situation in China, describing in unapologetic detail the gross reality of poop, piss, and phlegm in “#2 to Go.” The phrase, “I’m not sure how long I lay there, blissed out and farting,” comes to mind (from “The Happy Place”) as does this excerpt from the poem, “Dog Days”: “He poops a stool, then, though it’s heinous, bends back down and licks his anus.” Utterly graceful.
Apart from travel, family, and feces, his essays also touch on American politics as seen from his ex-pat perspective. He tells the French to get their own black president in “Obama!!!!!,” while “Health-Care Freedom and Why I Want My Country Back” plus “I Break for Traditional Marriage” are amusing monologues from characters whose values are the obvious punchlines.
Whether he’s insulting himself or the dress code of American travelers, it’s all done with his glorious wit for which he is so loved. Sedaris doesn’t skimp on any dirty details, but he does so with grace and gives the rest of us weirdos, weeping with laughter, a pretty good name, too.