Another humorous book of essays by Mr Sedaris. I first read Sedaris’s books in 2008 with his When You are Engulfed with Flames. He appears in the Best American Travel Writing series a lot, but reading one of his books is different altogether as you get immersed with his worldview and humor. This was my fourth or fifth of his books that I read, and I bought Me Talk Pretty One Day, but had to leave it in England with all the rest of the books I bought there (save my Completed Works of Shakespeare). I wish I had kept it because I think the aforementioned are two of my favourites of his.
There are always at least a couple of gems in his collected essays. I am wondering if Sedaris is getting more and more grumpy as he ages. He was in town two years ago, but I didn’t manage to go at the time and I was turned off by the idea that he was going to be crowded. It was from photos I saw of the event, but I regret not going because as written in this book and in interviews, Sedaris is very engaging to his fans.
This was the first of his books that I heard in audiobook form, and I’m surprised again why I hadn’t done this sooner. He has been Grammy nominated for a reason. I’ve already put in a library request for another of his books on CD.
I like his observational style and his wry self-deprecating humor. I am not as pessimistic or judgmental as he seems to be, but humor is about seeing the world in a particular way. For example, in his essay about Obama and France, he noted how Europeans were dismissive the idea he could win. BI found this assessment of anti-Americanism. The essay makes you consider how Europeans calling Americans racist seems hypocritical considering the right wing fractions of many European countries and their inability to integrate their immigrants, people of colour and minorities in their own political system.
He also writes about the hygiene in China and how it marred his whole experience in the country. I am planning to go back to China this year if possible, but one thing that I never look forward to China is the low personal hygiene. I hate squat toilets as much as Sedaris. I loved going out in China for the most part, but the toilets were horrid. You always have to carry toilet or tissue paper when you are out in China. I would not say that everyone in China spits or lets their baby go diaperless as Sedaris witnesses, but it is a country of 1.3 billion and yes, many people do these things.
Sedaris also discusses his childhood, his family, taxidermy, learning languages, French dentists, littering in the UK, queues/line ups, and the British bureaucracy (one of the few things I don’t miss about Britain). The end of the book contains several very short stories of dark and satirical nature. I did not like these as much as the essays, but they were short and amusing.
There have been controversy concerning the veracity of some of Sedaris’s essays. Indeed, some of the stuff does seem exaggerated, but sadly, a lot of it is not as I noted above. Many of his essays are fact checked as they are published in periodicals such as the “The New Yorker”. Also, I do not have a big problem with the possible exaggeration because these are personal essays. If they feel overblown; the actual live experience of it felt as it is depicted. I will continue to be a fan of Sedaris’s work as long as I do not use him for in depth research. I hope to one day get to chance to hear him speak live.
Listened to as an audiobook May 20-21 2013.