David Sedaris is a funny funny man. I’m not a slavish fan to everything he writes, by any means, but my goodness do I enjoy reading him. I have read two other collections of his, Dress Your Family In Corduroy & Denim (from which, the essay describing his visit to Anne Frank’s House still makes me giggle today when I think about it) and When You Are Engulfed In Flames, which is also absolutely uproarious. Clearly, Sedaris loves a crazy title. Though it must be said, anyone expecting the almost constant belly laughs that latter collection provided is in for something of a surprise. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls takes a more introspective turn. It also includes a few fictional monologues, where Sedaris takes on the voice of a few different characters, hence the “etc” in the full title.
The essays take on everything from the expected family reminiscing, to the unexpected, such as Sedaris having his first colonoscopy. We find out how difficult it can be for a legal alien to have their passport stolen as well as how annoying it can be when people co-opt your President. The range of topics is, without a doubt, very wide indeed. All of them are covered with Sedaris’s trademark sardonic tone, which often veers into haughty along the way. But there seems to be a melancholy to some of it, as if Sedaris isn’t getting anywhere near as much delight out of his observations as we are.
The main thing I took from this collection is just how much mileage Sedaris can mine out of the everyday. A cold call from a marketing centre in India, an internal flight in the USA, he can turn anything into an epic story. It’s quite incredible, I found myself a little jealous of how he was able to spin a yarn out of essentially anything. Along with being sharp, he’s also completely unafraid to go anywhere, explore everything. It’s a trait I admire more than Sedaris seems to. He talks about his incessant diary keeping more as if it’s something he is a slave to more than something he enjoys. He dislikes his image so much that he bans photos from being taken at talks and signings. Conflicted is probably the best word to use here.
On top of ALL this, he’s also the proud owner of the dirtiest mind I have ever encountered. I went to a reading and signing on his book tour for Owls. He read one of the essays and then shared some diary entries he had made with us. One talked about how on a previous tour, a teenage boy had asked him to sign something really filthy for his mother in the front of the book. “I thought for a moment and then wrote ‘Dear Lucinda, your son left teeth marks on my dick’ and as I handed the book back and his face fell, I realised he didn’t mean for me to write something quite like that”. Well, I figure, if you ask Sedaris for something filthy, you have to take what he dishes out. So, when the time came, I said he could be as filthy as he wanted in signing my copy, I wouldn’t mind at all:
How right I was.