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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary Paperback – October 4, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Like a modern-day Aesop or La Fontaine, Sedaris has his darkly comic and deeply cynical (if somewhat rambling) morality stories enacted by animals. Although Sedaris typically narrates his works solo, here he is joined by Dylan Baker, Siân Phillips, and (the incomparable) Elaine Stritch. The dry tones of both women are particularly well suited to the knowing commentary offered by various domesticated, barnyard, and wild animals on casual racism, self-congratulatory sanctimony, poor excuses for adultery, and fad spiritualism, among other common societal ills. The audiobook features a bonus fable not available in the text version of the book; in addition, the third CD includes PDFs of the book's illustrations by Ian Falconer (writer/illustrator of the Olivia picture book series). A Little, Brown hardcover. (Sept.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
"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.
Evidently, this book is not for everybody. It does require a bitter kind of sense of humor, a tolerance for delving into the ugly scenarios of social life and a penchant for the discomfort of having to turn the mirror on self. There is no point in trying to argue its merits to those who simply have different tastes, motivations for reading as well as life experiences. It may be that it takes a few of life's "burns" (with some hefty force-feedings of humble pie along the way), to enjoyably relate to this "modest bestiary". If the negative reviews made sense to you and you know you are looking for something lighthearted, you are not likely to love this piece. This is not a conventional "happy ending" variety of book, though the final two stories are quite uplifting :) And so, If you are no stranger to experiencing sadness and laughter in the same breath AND are not put off by metaphorical violence against metaphorical animals, you might just enjoy it very much.