Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls (David Sedaris is a Master Conversation Starter)

May 2, 2013 Humor, Memoirs 50

Bonjour Bookworms,

Today we’re going to explore diabetes with owls. I know that sounds like a kicky conversation starter for a cocktail party, but really. David Sedaris wrote a new book of personal essays (and other fabulous weirdness) called Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. I’ve been a Sedaris fan since my friend Dr. Erin gave me a copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day for my birthday many moons ago. I own just about everything he’s ever published, because, well, I’m a fan. (Side note: I have known Dr. Erin since her birth, essentially, and she just graduated from vet school and I’m extremely proud!)

Funny thing about Sedaris, though. He’s kind of polarizing. I’ve always enjoyed his humor and bizarre anecdotes, which is why I’m always surprised to hear when people don’t care for him. Some friends have told me they just couldn’t get into his work, or that they were annoyed with the casual drug references, or that he’s just kind of mean sometimes. Those are all perfectly valid objections. I’ve been on the other side of the coin, you know? Chelsea Handler and I did not get along very well. That doesn’t make her any less funny to people who like her style, it just means she isn’t my cup of tea (or bottle of vodka. This is Chelsea we’re talking about.) Before I get too far into this, I’ll just go ahead and tell you. If you don’t like Sedaris, this isn’t going to be the book to change your mind. I’ll like you anyway. We can have differing opinions. The world is magical that way. If you’ve never read any of his work, I encourage you to give it a shot! Find out where you fall and if you are so inclined, join me in my fandom!


This book starts off with a forward by Sedaris mentioning that he included some essays specifically for use in forensics competitions (read: Speech Team. Although I might question a faculty adviser who would allow some of these selections…) They are interspersed between the type of fare I’ve come to expect from my dear David (we can be on a first name basis, right?!) The only problem I had was that he didn’t WARN me when he was playing a character. Without fail, I’d arrive at a forensics chapter and it would take me a few sentences to realize it wasn’t HIS story. I’m a fan, see? I’ve read most of Sedaris’s work, so I KNOW that his mother passed away after a brutal bout with cancer. Therefore, I was terribly confused when in one of these digressions, the narrator of the piece started discussing their mother being in the next room. I’m not always the brightest.

Aside from my minor episodes of confusion, I very much enjoyed this book. Sedaris has spent a big chunk of his adult life living outside the confines of the USA. Me Talk Pretty One Day discussed his time in France at length, but one country was not enough for Sedaris and his life partner Hugh. They’ve traveled extensively and lived in a multitude of places. (Word to the wise- DO NOT get your passport stolen if you have a British “leave to remain” sticker in it.)

Things I learned from this book which are obviously completely scientific and in no way colored by the author’s quirks… The English countryside has a terrible problem with littering. China has a terrible problem with loogie hocking. Japan is extremely clean and full of delightful cuisine. People in the Netherlands think that hanging clear plastic bags of water in front of their doors keep flies away. Kookaburras enjoy eating raw duck meat from the hands of guests at Australian bed and breakfasts (though it leaves the reader to wonder if a bird eating the meat of another bird is cannibalism or if it doesn’t count because they’re a different species… I’m a mammal and I eat mammals… Hmmm…) This book is a whole lot of cultural insensitivity squished in with admiration of global diversity rolled into a nutty coating of taxidermy owls… In short? It’s a rare treat.

Bookworms, if you were to write a collection of essays about your life, what would you focus on? What would you title it? Would it ever include taxidermy and/or kookaburras?

50 Responses to “Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls (David Sedaris is a Master Conversation Starter)”

  1. Ashley F

    I love David Sedaris but I totally get how he’s not some people’s cup of tea. This one is sitting on my bedside table waiting to be read.

  2. Jessica@CapeofDreams

    I loooooooove David Sedaris. Have you ever seen him live. I highly recommend the experience since you are a fan. I had no idea he had published a new book. It is now on my reading list.

    • Words for Worms

      I haven’t seen him live, but I would love to. He was in my town a couple of years ago for an NPR thing but I missed it. I’m afraid he shall never return!

  3. mynovelopinion

    I keep looking at this. It’s quirky title and amazing cover caught my eye. But not sure if it’s my cup of tea. Your review certainly makes me want to give it a try. And not all of the English countryside has a litter problem, a lot of it is truly stunning. If I still lived there (moved to the US 6 years ago) I would be in the Lake District right now, but I have to make do with New Jersey instead lol

    • Words for Worms

      New Jersey over the English countryside, huh? Bummer. Perhaps the litter in Sedaris’s neck of the woods was due to a lack of crime… And the community service of picking up trash :).

  4. Rick Wiedeman

    I’ve been a fan of Sedaris ever since Christmas Elf at Macy’s on NPR. And Chelsea isn’t my cup of slut, either.

    My essay collection title might be:
    We’re Moving Again (Why is Your Eye Twitching?), or The Wiedeman Protection Program. Hmm. I kinda like the second one. That resonates.


  5. Alley

    I really need to try some Sedaris. I’ve heard that some people loooooooooooove him and others can’t stand him and while he sounds like I’d be on the love team, I’m afraid of being disappointed. Of course the fact that you also had high hopes for Handler and were let down gives me hope.

    • Words for Worms

      It is what it is, you know? If you’re let down, no big thing, follow it up with something you know you’ll like. I always recommend that people start with Me Talk Pretty One Day, since that was my gateway drug :).

  6. didibooksenglish

    I keep saying I’ll get to a David Sedaris novel and haven’t had the pleasure. Even though I think I’ll have to start with Me Talk Pretty One Day. If I had to write a collection of essays about my life they would be about living in France, teaching English, being a parent, artist at work, culture shock 20 years later, and weightloss the ups and downs of dieting in France. Doesn’t sound very interesting does it. Don’t answer that. 😉

  7. Megan M.

    I have not read any Sedaris. I’m hesitant because I sort of got burned by Running With Scissors. It was a mega bestseller, being made into a movie (at the time that I read it) and even though it was very well written… it also crossed the line for me in terms of graphic-ness. A sweet old lady asked me in a bookstore checkout line if I had read it and when I said yes, she said, “That is the FILTHIEST book I have ever read!” and I was like, “I can’t really argue with you.”

    Anyway, I decided about two years ago that a great tagline for my life would be “Letting insecurity win since the 1980s!” So I would probably title a collection of essays thusly.

    • Words for Worms

      Oh, I did NOT like Running With Scissors, but I really like Sedaris. I think it’s because he actually HAD a childhood. His parents were hilarious and weird in their own ways, but it wasn’t like RWS with the underage horrors…

  8. Charleen

    Oh dear, if I wrote a memoir, it would be ridiculous, and not in the good way. No one wants to read about my life. “I was able to squeeze a little more toothpaste out of the tube this morning, even though I thought it was finished a week ago. It keeps surprising me!” See? Ridiculous.

  9. Rhian

    Another Sedaris fan here, though I wasn’t that keen on Barrel Fever. I’ve seen him live twice and the first time he read a kookaburra story (I imagine the one in this book) the very day I had read it in a collection of essays. This new one is now on my to buy list.

    • Words for Worms

      I remember not loving Barrel Fever as much as some of the others, but since everything is told in short story form, sometimes I can’t remember what came from which book…

  10. middleagebutch

    I LOVE me some David Sedaris. It’s funny how people either like him or hate him. My partner thinks he’s mean. I’m currently working on a memoir about growing up as a tomboy and coming out as a lesbian later in life. No working title yet. I thought the title would be the easy part.

  11. cozyblanketsnowflakerepetitioncompulsion

    I have never read David Sedaris. I am intrigued to try him on after reading your blog.

    I like the idea of global travel and humourous anecdotes interspersed. If that’s the kind of book this is, I’d like to read it. I don’t know where taxidermy comes in, and my only thought on taximdermy is that it was Norman Bates hobby in Psycho.

    If I were to write a book with essays, it would be about the many lovers I’ve had. I think it would be both factual and fictional and I’d lean towards some untoward humour. That’s just me though!

    Thanks for the blog!

  12. Rachel Hamilton

    I love to listen to Mr Sedaris…audiobooks, This American Life, etc. I have actually never physically read one of his books though…just listened. Now I’m hesitant to read one…I’ll just find the audiobook version. 🙂

    I have notes started for a “book” entitled “She Made Me Do It: The Crazy Girl Inside Us All.” A collection of stories, not just about me, that goes into crazy things we women have done due to crazy hormones. 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      The audio books are probably more fun- he’s got such a great voice and it’s always better to hear someone read their own work, especially since they’re personal stories.

      I would hang out with your inner crazy girl. We’d eat ice cream and drink wine and cry and laugh and maybe throw things.

  13. Ashley Austrew

    I’ve been wanting to read this, so I’m really glad I came across this post. My collection of essays about my life would absolutely include taxidermy. Also french fries.

  14. Jenny

    My essay collection would be called “My Latest Grievance”. (Not really! But yeah, sort of.)

    David Sedaris does not polarize me at all. I like him but not a ton, and the reason it’s not a ton is because he is sort of mean sometimes. But I do enjoy his non-mean essays a lot!

  15. Lyssapants

    I think I’ve read, like, three of his books….and I just kept waiting to love him, and it never came. I find him mildly amusing, and sometimes confusing and weird. And see, I am a weird gal. I like weird. I do weird. But I just don’t get him. But I WANT to get him. I have problems.

    As for me, I’d write about clients. and crazy relatives. also blogging.

  16. therelentlessreader

    Good gravy I love Sedaris. I need to get my hands on this ASAP!

  17. Sarah Says Read

    I really need to try another Sedaris. I’ve only read his Christmas collection (the name of which is escaping me right now) and I remember liking some stories and not liking others… so apparently I’m still on the fence. Shall I try him again with this one, or a different book of his?

    • Words for Worms

      I really liked this one, or of course, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I think Sedaris is at his best in foreign countries doing the fish out of water thing.

  18. snarkoleptic

    David Sedaris is my muse. If I could have 1/12 of his talent I’d be a happy girl. He makes make me oh so giggly. Just curious, how did you like Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk? I feel disloyal when I admit it wasn’t my jam.
    Also – I’m happy I’m not the only one that feels meh about Chelsea Handler.

    • Words for Worms

      I will only admit this because you admitted it first, but I didn’t love Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. It had its moments, but it didn’t resonate with me the way his other books have.

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