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?