When I was a teenager Ruby Wax had a late night TV show where she would interview a group of celebrities around a table. I can’t for the life of me recall what it was called, or any of the guests – except one. I happened to see an episode where David Sedaris talked about how he had only had OCD up to the point he started smoking – and then it went. It was a strange and amusing interview which I found amusing – so I looked him up and found he had several books. And so began my love of David Sedaris. I couldn’t even begin to explain to you what his books are about, or what makes them so fantastic – they just are. And I love them. I often buy copies of his books as birthday or Christmas gifts for people, in that annoying “you need to love this as much as I do” sort of way.
A few months ago I discovered he was appearing near me – and was absolutely gutted that I was unable to go. I have been a massive fan of his for years, but have never seen him live.
I complained about it on Facebook, and a lovely lady who follows my page commented that we would go together next time he was touring. Several weeks after that I was walking home with S when I heard a voice say “Vicky?” I turned and saw the lady from my Facebook page. She told me she had a gift for me and handed me a small bag – which contained a copy of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. I was incredibly touched, but even more so when she urged me to open it, and I found this:
… at which point, I very nearly cried!
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain what Sedaris’ books are about. He writes humorous essays about his life and his childhood; his family feature in them a lot, and not always in the best light! He talks about being gay, about taking lots of drugs in his early twenties, about his parents, his sisters, his baby brother. But to call his writing “humorous” makes it sound a bit… fluffy and unintelligent, which it most certainly is not!
This book is a little different from the others of Sedaris’ books, in that several of the essays are written from the perspective of fictional characters. He’s also a little more political than I had considered him to be in the past – perhaps I never noticed it before but I suppose with the political goings on in the States lately, with gay marriage being discussed at great length, he has reason to voice his opinions. Even then, he can do it in a humorous way:
States vote to take away my marriage rights, and even though I don’t want to get married, it tends to hurt my feelings. I guess what bugs me is that it was put to a vote in the first place. If you don’t want to marry a homosexual, then don’t. But what gives you the right to weigh in on your neighbor’s options? It’s like voting on whether or not redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas.
There are some amazing essays in this collection: one in the form of an email thanking a “friend” for a gift; another about the joy of gaining an Indefinite Leave to Remain sticker on his passport; one about being an American expat in France when Obama was elected. Alongside these are stories about his childhood, his parents, his siblings – the sort of stories we’re used to reading in Sedaris’ books, the ones that never get boring. I loved every single one.
As with all of Sedaris’ books, this one had me genuinely laughing out loud in several places. There’s a brilliant essay where Sedaris attempts to purchase a stuffed owl for his partner, Hugh. As an American living in ithe UK, Sedaris attempts to explain to his American audience the difference in inference between one item being stored in a Waitrose bag, and another being stored in a Tesco bag. This explanation is almost as amusing and strange as the two items being stored in the back of a taxidermist shop in London.
I loved the essays so much that for days afterwards I found myself wishing I still had more to read. I loved reading about Sedaris’ family, about his childhood, about the frankly hilarious things that went on during his childhood. I also loved reading about his journals, about how he records everything that happens and keeps indexes so that he can remember where things are. I had always wondered, when reading his books, how he could remember with such clarity the things that had happened decades previously – and now I know.
I absolutely loved this book, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It’s one of those books where you finish it, and immediately wish you’d read it more slowly. It has crossed my mind more than once to just pick it up and read it again. It really is that good. Instead, I’m going to put it on my shelf – and perhaps read one of his earlier books again.
At the time of writing, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is priced at £6.79 on Amazon UK – and worth every penny! If you’re my friend, you’re probably getting a copy of this book for Christmas.
Thanks for reading.