I just finished my first year of graduate school, and in celebration, I am treating myself to a week of pure pleasure reading. My first book is David Sedaris’ newest collection of stories and essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, etc. The book contains twenty or so short stories from Sedaris himself, and six short monologues meant for students doing “Forensics” exercises, which apparently are a form of competitive speech-giving. (I personally had never heard of this until Sedaris brought it up at his reading back in November.)
My initial response to the essays and monologues is this: Sedaris’ essays are as wonderful and hilarious as always, while the monologues meant for forensics are amusing, but not nearly as good as his memoirs. In the author’s note preceding the text, Sedaris explains the monologues and points out that they are easily distinguishable from his other stories. I definitely agree; especially after the first couple monologues, they become readily apparent as different from his other stories.
I absolutely loved so many of the stories in this volume, it’s incredibly hard to pick a favorite. My least favorite of the stories is easy, though: “Loggerheads.” I’ll come back to the high notes in a moment, but the one sour note is the story that I just couldn’t like. “Loggerheads” is generally about Sedaris’ childhood attempts to keep wild animals as pets, though it meanders on to other related subjects, as so many of his stories do. Sedaris is upfront about the fact that his attempts to “save” wild animals invariably killed them, and so from the outset of this story my animal-loving heart was uneasy. When he gets to the episode in which he took five baby sea turtles from the beach, my stomach sank to somewhere around my ankles. I know he was just a child, but I felt irrationally angry at his choices — as well as the fact that none of the adults stopped him. I was rather depressed and sickened by this story, and I all I can really say is that, in hindsight, Sedaris does recognize how awful his actions were.
Apart from this story, I uniformly loved the stories. Some of my favorites included one that he read when I saw him, “The Happy Place”, as well as “Easy, Tiger”, “Author, Author”, and “Standing By.” There were many other great stories, but I think these were some of the best. “Standing By” is about delays and mishaps traveling, and how strangers are thrown together into brief communities. I could absolutely relate to Sedaris’ feelings of wanting to scream at fellow passengers, as well as being casually judgmental of just about everyone you see in the airport.
I really love Sedaris’ books, as every one feels like a privileged peek into the life of someone with whom I’d love to be friends. The stories about traveling with Hugh, living in the countryside, and even getting a colonoscopy all are laughingly confidential, as if being shared over a cup of coffee. I love Sedaris’ writing style, and the way he can wring humor out of just about every situation, as well as transition from bitingly sarcastic to heartfelt and vulnerable and back again. Even in outlandish situations, Sedaris manages to seem absolutely relatable.
For more hilarity, watch the video of David Sedaris on The Daily Show the other night, which you can see here. He literally has Jon Stewart laughing so hard he can’t talk at one point. (Also, Sedaris makes fun of people who come to his readings in shabby clothing, which makes me preen even more over the fact that he complimented my dress and thanked me for dressing nicely when I saw him!)
I cannot recommend this book enough!