Me Talk Pretty One Day: Abacus 40th Anniversary Edition by Sedaris, David 40th (fortieth) Anniversary edi Edition (2013) Paperback
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I can’t imagine him trying to convince family members to share some of the more outrageous stories about them. He’s teamed up with his sister Amy on several projects. She was brilliant when in one of his stories, she imitated a family friend and propositioned their father—making Sedaris one of the kings of parental grief giving.
On the whole, the author’s childhood memories were quite entertaining although I bought the book for his cross cultural witticism and stories of how language—or a lack of understanding it can have dire and very humorous consequences.
His insights into the French was entertaining and insightful although not as well developed as Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Bartow. But I enjoyed his quips about French language:
Nothing in France is free from sexual assignment. I was leafing through the dictionary, trying to complete a home-work assignment, when I noticed the French had prescribed genders for the various land masses and natural wonders we Americans had always thought of as sexless, Niagara Falls is feminine and, against all reason, the Grand Canyon is masculine….I wonder whose job it was to assign these sexes in the first place….
The author has become incredibly popular with seven million copies of his books in print after being translated into 25 languages. He’s been on several late night comedy shows lately and he does stand-up comedy. He’s the author of an anthology of stories, “Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules: An Anthology of Outstanding Stories” and his essays appear regularly in Esquire and the New Yorker. He’s been at it for a while—he became the third recipient of the Thurber Prize for American humor in 2001. Sadaris and his sister Amy, have collaborated under the name “The Talent Family” and have written several plays which have been produced at Lincoln Center. He’s also been nominated for two Grammys for Best Spoken Word Album ("Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim") and Best Comedy Album ("David Sedaris: Live at Carnegie Hall").
The author is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and BBC Radio4 and he lives in England. He’s become a humorist icon in our country and this book was well worth the read.
There is one character in the book who makes it worth reading all by herself, and that is the author's French teacher while he is in Paris. She is a sarcastic martinet who humiliates her students and seems to dislike them (the author in particular), and yet she eventually starts to feel and display something akin to affection for them. She comes to realize that she needs them in order to avoid what is in other respects an empty life.
The narrator, who is forty-one when he enrolls in the class, struggles mightily to learn conversational French, but fails repeatedly along with his hapless classmates, to elicit any approval or even encouragement from the teacher. At one point she tells him directly and explicitly that she hates him.
The best lines in the book appear on page 172. The author writes the following: "It was mid-October when the teacher singled me out, saying 'Every day spent with you is like having a caesarian section.' And it struck me that, for the first time since arriving in France, I could understand every word that someone was saying."