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Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls Hardcover – April 23, 2013
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: If you’ve read any of David Sedaris’s previous works, you know what you’re in for with his latest book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Sedaris is an author who has no legitimate reason to change his approach to writing--he’s taken the snarky, sometimes crude, often hilarious, ultimately thought-provoking personal essay to the level of mastery. One could easily argue that he’s set the bar for observational comedy, and for that reason alone fans new and old will make each book he writes a publishing sensation. --Chris Schluep
Following his foray into animal fables, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (2010), Sedaris returns to his signature form, the eviscerating comic essay. He draws on a seemingly bottomless well of appalling childhood memories revolving around his mounting fears about being unlike other boys. There’s a stinging account of swimming competitions during which his irascible father vociferously championed his son’s rival, a courageously candid tale of his courtship of a shy African American girl, and an unnerving confession of his inept handling of captured baby sea turtles. Moving on to more worldly episodes, Sedaris recalls encounters with strangers on trains and offers hilarious perspectives on French health care and shopping at Costco. An acute observer and master of the quick, excoriating takedown, Sedaris claims new territory in this exceptionally gutsy and unnerving collection, creating dark and mischievous monologues in other voices, such as the brilliantly vicious “Just a Quick E-Mail” and an alarming rant by a Christian fascist. Sedaris casts penetrating light on a world of cruelty, inanity, and absurdity that is barely but surely redeemed by humor and love. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Sedaris-mania knows no bounds, and with a 20-city author tour and all-out media campaign, this will be a red-hot title. --Donna Seaman
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There is an entire essay about journal writing. It's like he had to fill more pages for his publisher and just free-wrote about his journaling habits. I didn't find it funny or even remotely interesting.
That being said, this latest collection of essays feels mostly rushed and lacking in the details I have come to most look forward to in Sedaris' essays. At most, I was moved by three of his essays; most essayists would be lucky to achieve that number of affecting pieces in a collection; Sedaris, however, has set his own bar so high that "only" three is a disappointment.
Additionally, Sedaris' experiment of providing forensics pieces for teenagers to compete with were over-the-top ridiculous. As a Forensics coach and judge, I highly doubt any of the pieces here would work in a competitive meet. These "etc." pieces serve only to confuse the readers and break up otherwise semi-enjoyable reading. Perhaps if he were to flesh out these fictional short-stories and realized the characters and scenarios more fully, that's a new collection I would want to see from Sedaris!
I don't regret reading this book, but I wouldn't recommend it either.
So those are the negatives, and why I couldn't get through the last one. The good news is that most of this book is pretty funny, and he has several stories about his family. His family pieces are always his strongest. No wonder Amy is also so funny. Others have said that he is disrespectful, but I beg to differ. His love for his family comes through strongly in every piece he writes about them. "Memory Laps" stands as one of his strongest pieces, ever.
His fiction pieces are really awful, though. Even if you agree with his politics (I do), they are very snide and off-putting. Ever since he quit smoking he's gotten rather holier-than-thou. So those are the negatives.
Fans expecting another "Naked" will be disappointed, because that book is pretty much perfect and he hadn't written about so much of his past at this point. But these essays are really strong. Funny and relatable. Yeah, he has rich people problems, and we readers aren't so rich. I still recommend it highly.
I can't blame the author - it's the conundrum of the popular essayist. We love their view on their wacky life and we want them to write it all. Then publish, then tour to support the book and come to our town and shake our hand and somehow simultaneously be writing more wacky stories. Which is obviously hard to do when your life revolves around hotel rooms and book stores. At some point, the wacky story bank will be empty and yet we clamor for more and insist that they publish SOMETHING. And then we get books like this. Not at all bad, but not quite what we'd hoped and certainly not what we wanted.
Overall, I'm glad that I waited and got the eBook on sale. If I'd paid full hard cover price, I would have been very unhappy.