Wednesday, August 09, 2006

me type pretty oen day

Title: me talk pretty one day
Author: David Sedaris

I actually finished this a couple weeks before we started this blog, but I was catching grief from another member here, who shall remain nameless but goes through bodice rippers like their protagonists go through sexual partners. She felt that I needed to be posting more, so this will be first in a series of Stuff I've Already Read, But Felt Deserved A Post. Some of these, having been read quite a while ago, may even be treated to a second reading. I can't wait to read Vertical Run a third time, but that's another post.

This goes in the file "books everybody else has already read," so the review itself will not be helpful to most people, but at least now I know why everybody else read it. Sedaris is a ruthlessly funny guy whose dry, understated humor tears through his entire life, and those of everyone he knows, with relentless honesty. Like most people who write about their own lives, it's not enough that he's a good writer; he also has a bottomless well of bizarre stories to draw upon. These two aspects have to work together to complete the book. Anyone could tell a story about how their father will store food--any food, even food which is most certainly NOT meant to be stored more than a few days--for years before eating it, and make it sound funny. See? Even that sentence, poorly constructed and over-punctuated as it was, got a reaction out of you. But when Sedaris shines is when he turns the light on himself and his own failings, or the failings of those he loves, and either humanizes them (in the case of others) or leaps undaunted to new heights of self-ridicule (in the case of his own experiences. While anyone could talk about the father who ate part of a hat because he thought it might be food (not any specific type of food, because when it's so old it looks like part of a hat, you can no longer tell whether it was a cookie or a tuna sandwich) and make it entertaining, far fewer people can talk about their time as a performance artist, dumping food on their head and chopping off large portions of hair in front of an audience intended to take him seriously, and instead getting heckled into oblivion by the same father, and make you laugh at the artist rather than chide the apparently unsupportive father.

The book is comprised of essays, short stories traight out of Sedaris's life, and are presented in only a semblance of chronological order, as some of them span several years, and some are merely observational. Taken as a whole, you learn why he is not a musician, artist (of any kind), or presidential intern. You also find that he can be coldly manipulative (when he met his boyfriend) and opportunistic, that he has adopted many French customs but took years to be able to construct a basic French sentence, and that he is extremely self-aware. He knows the drugs were a bad idea, he knows that he may not be, in the classic sense, a good person, and he knows how perfectly ludicrous the performance-art period was. He also knows that it's all great fodder for writing, because as we all know, other people being stupid--is funny.

As Mel Brooks said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."

Even if everybody else has already read this, it reminded me that I want to write, and got me busy doing so again. Now all I need is some really strange friends.

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posted by reyn at 2:17 PM


Blogger ~e said...

i haven't read it, but i just put in on display in a "good stuff to read when you don't really have time to read" thing...short stories, essays, etc.

maybe that i means i should read it.

8/09/2006 3:16 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I actually haven't yet read this, although I keep meaning too. I'm rather afraid that I won't like it, having heard so many wonderful things, and then I'll naturally feel bad...

loved the mel brooks quote

8/11/2006 9:28 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

I love David Sedaris! I've read this one (or listened to it). I've also read or listened to some of his other ones. My two favorite stories are "Six to Eight Black Men" (about various countries' versions of Santa Claus - had me laughing hysterically. pdf here) and the one about his sister and her fat suit. I actually first heard the fat suit one in undergrad when a prof played it for our class. It was taken from the radio and so was longer than the version in one of his books (I've now heard both).

He reads his own stuff, so it's well worth listening to.

Can you tell I have a commute to work? :)

8/15/2006 8:18 AM  

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