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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary Hardcover – September 28, 2010
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The ancient Greeks had Aesop, seventeenth-century French people read the fables of La Fontaine, and now we, jaded inhabitants of the modern era, possess the distinct privilege to enjoy the beloved Sedaris’ first collection of short animal tales. The appeal of this aesthetically pleasing little volume is inherent, as the American ambassador of the comedy memoir, human division, turns now to creatures of the hoofed and winged variety to make us laugh and, perhaps, learn a lesson. Illustrations by Falconer (of the Olivia children’s books) are a perfect pairing for Sedaris’ stories (both writer and illustrator have been published extensively in the New Yorker). In Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, foibled fabular heroines are given the opportunity to, finally, display all those humanlike thoughts and behaviors they’ve been banned from for ages. There’s the motherless bear who alienates herself with her incessant, self-centered solicitations of pity, and the potbellied pig who, no matter the diet, just can’t lose his breed-inherited descriptor. It’s impossible to imagine the brainstorm that conjured up these absurd, animated tales, but readers will certainly be grateful that they rained from Sedaris’ pen. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Sedaris’ name creates its own buzz and will continue to do so even with this quirky little book. --Annie Bostrom
PRAISE FOR WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES:
"He's the best there is."―Judith Newman, People
"A joy to read....Sedaris [is] a connoisseur of human nature at its worst."―Christopher Muther, Boston Globe
"Sedaris is certainly worthy of hero worship....He is a master pathfinder."―Mark Washburn, Charlotte Observer
"The preeminent humorist of his generation."―Whitney Pastorek, Entertainment Weekly
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"Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" is one of the most biting and hilarious collections of short prose Sedaris' acerbic wit has offered to date. The only disappointment I found is the actual story of "The Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk." You see, I expected this to be a variant of an old joke I once heard (I think I was still in college then, so it was a long time ago. No -- really long time ago... Yep, that long.) The joke went something like this:
"So this squirrel and this chipmunk get married. And everyone tells them -- you can't get married. By God!... the two of you are just soooo different, you aren't even the same species. But the answer was always the same: 'We love each other,' Squirrel would say. 'More than anything in the world,' Chipmunk would add.
And so they did get married. And year after year went by. And peace and contentment settled upon the little furry family. But their joy was besmirched by one thing: no children. They BOTH wanted to have children. Oh, how they wanted to have children. More than anything they longed to hear pitter-patter of little hybrid SquiMunk paws in their burrow. So they went to see Squirrel's rabbi. That wasn't helpful. Then they went to talk to Chipmunk's mullah. Same result.
'Maybe we should go and see a doctor?' said Squirrel at breakfast one day.
'You are brilliant!' said Chipmunk. And so, to the doctor they went. The elderly white-haired veterinarian appeared very thoughtful. He took them to separate exam rooms and performed thorough physicals and took detailed histories. His assistant drew multiple tiny vials for all sorts of test of every conceivable body fluid that could be tested. And the fur. The fur hairs got tested too (you just never know...)
A week later both were sitting in the vet's consultation room holding their joint breath waiting for the doctor to give them the results.
"Is it me?" asked Chipmunk.
"Or me?" barely whispered Squirrel...
"Well," said the doctor. "I am not sure how to tell you, but it is actually both of you."
"Wha... What do you mean?" asked Chipmunk.
"You see," said the doctor pointing at the chipmunk, "you are... a... um... a boy." The doctor then looked at the squirrel and said: "And so are you..."
OK, ok, I know this is VERY politically INcorrect (and in some circles, I'd probably get crucified for it), but I know, I just know, that David Sedaris would make it work! If anything, it would probably be even funnier coming from him. Sigh... maybe he'll use this joke in one of his later books... you know? "Squirrel and Chipmunk -- the Sequel" or "Squirrel and Chipmunk Ride Again... For A Few Dollars More..."
Naaaahh.... He probably won't.
So... back to the review. For the exception of the title story, I absolutely loved the book. And for all the nay-sayers. Have you ever heard of "allegory?..." "fable?... For that matter have you ever heard of AEsop?... Jean de La Fontaine?... Ivan Krylov?... No matter. I think this book is one of the BEST of Sedaris' offerings.
This review is for the Kindle version. I would have purchased this book when it was first released; however, I have moved almost completely to reading on the Kindle, and I'm always concerned about purchasing books on Kindle that have many pictures. These books usually look so flat and muddled on the Kindle. With the release of the new Kindle Fire, though, I decided to take the chance. Indeed, the pictures when viewed on the Fire are lovely and can be enlarged -- quite a difference from how they look on my regular Kindle. So I'm recommending the book for the Kindle Fire version only. If you have the regular Kindle, then I suggest purchasing the hard cover edition instead.
At first glance you may think this is a book about rodents seeking dating partners. You would be wrong. Author David Sedaris has written a very clever collection of short stories that give personification to animals. Yes, he tells stories, but manages to sneak in lessons in values and mores. While we may think of Aesop's Fables as kiddie lit., it was originally written for adults. Sedaris has done similarly, only his tales are set in our contemporary times.
In Sedaris' book, the characters are animals. Settings are those most of us are familiar with and the problems are the ones we experience in our 21st century. Taken at face value, these are brief and amusing stories. However, thinking about them, the reader can see people they know in the characters these animals portray. This is a thought provoking, engaging, and easy-to-read book.
The book includes a series of essays told with animals as the characters. The strategy reminded me a bit of the psychological method of letting kids use puppets to tell the doctor about what's bothering them; in other words, the distance from actual humans as characters allowed Sedaris to write even more wickedly than usual. But, the observations about modern life are right on target.
My main criticism of the book is its length. This is a bathroom book, and by this I mean a one-trip-to-the-throne book if you are low on fiber. Too pricey for what is essentially a pamphlet.