Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

David Sedaris' new book is more of what he does best. Painful memories and experiences from the past are turned into ironic and hilarious stories for the reader. 

It's been years since I've read a book by David Sedaris. I think I may have read two of his books in the past but I can't really remember. From memory, his books seemed like something out of the world of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar or J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. They were funny, ironic and perceptive. It was like he was really channeling those disgruntled 1950s American writers and somehow updating it for a contemporary audience.

Reading his latest book Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls it struck me why his writing could seem like a bit of a throwback. It's because, in his autobiographical essays, he often describes his family life in 1960s America. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, like Sedaris' other books, explores family, relationships and personal histories in a series of highly engaging essays and fragments (there's even a poem at the end, plus a half dozen small fictional pieces).

I really enjoyed this volume. Sedaris is absolutely brilliant at what he does and I found myself turning the pages fully absorbed in all he had to say. He can take any dull subject or memory and turn it into something fascinating. The key to his success, like all good writing, is his honesty about himself. As Quentin Crisp once wrote, the only truly boring thing is a lie. Anyone who will tell you the truth about themselves is necessarily interesting.

Actually, there are parallels between Crisp and Sedaris. Both gay, both diarists, both hopeless at holding down jobs in the real world. Against the odds they both made it as writers and attained a high degree of success.

I gave a copy of Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls to a friend who I thought might get a kick out of it and intend to plug the gaps in my Seadaris reading by trying out some of his other books.

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris. Published by Abacus. ISBN: 9780349121635  RRP: $29.99