Of all the genres in literature, humor can be one of the most difficult to write. Sedaris is one of the best and has several best sellers to prove that point. Certainly his new collection of essays should please his many fans.
While his books are available and well known, he is not a writer I have read. I approached Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls with some trepidation and not a little reluctance. After finally sitting down with a proper open mind I began.
Oh, such charming use of language. Such a wealth of observations about the human condition with all of its absurdities. His observations are a study of social interactions with sharp insights into life in general and into his life with specific points of view.
A little confusion developed as I continued reading. Some of the material seemed to be written by someone of indeterminate gender and I realized it was a short, short story. There was a piece about rubbish that was wry and all too relatable to an American. His opinions about how awfully careless people are with their trash struck home. For him to begin to collect it while riding his bicycle was funny in a sad way.
It takes a perceptive writer to see humor in the everyday events that surround each and every one of us. It takes real talent to portray that in a humorous way that isn’t cruel parody or taking a low road to sarcasm. There’s little of that in Sedaris’ writing. He takes a gentle road to point out what he finds ridiculous or even bizarre.
His take on airline travel, while it wasn’t side-splitting, showed an acute ability to relate things we have all come this close to experiencing. Waiting for take-off, waiting for an overly expensive meal to eat in the terminal, waiting for security checks, and then just generally waiting. This awful waiting includes watching others and commenting on those others to another person next to you. It makes the waiting worthwhile to find someone else willing to comment on human failings—especially when it’s not your own or theirs.
What brought a smile to my face was his take on the differences in language with Brits, Aussies and Americans. It bothered him to hear “in hospital” rather than “in the hospital”. The conversation goes on to twist more smiles. Australians are prone to use strange words which cannot be understood in context, and brought back memories of my own time in Oz (Sydney).
This collection may not bring a belly laugh, but it certainly should make you smile and may bring a chuckle or two. I may even go pick up some of his earlier works.
MaryLu McFall is the author of A Little Karmic Murder, an eBook that is available on Kindle, Nook, and all other electronic readers. She lives, works part-time at an independent bookstore, and will soon have her Young Adult novel, The Family Lancaster, published as an eBook as well.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Little, Brown and Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.