Thursday, November 22, 2012

Review: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest BestiarySquirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really quick read. They're all short stories about animals by David Sedaris, illustrated by Ian Falconer. The animals speak and go about their lives almost as if they're people, but within their animal natures. So sheep are stupid, crows are mean, cats are vain, and chickens are judgmental. It's like a twisted Aesop's Fables, without the morals at the end.

Most of the stories are slice-of-life tales. The book opens with a cat going to a salon run by a baboon to get ready for a party. There's a story about a squirrel and a chipmunk who are dating, but it doesn't work out, and the chipmunk always wonders what might have been. There's another story about a motherless bear who tries to use this fact for sympathy long after everyone's sick of hearing about it. There's another story about what storks tell their children about where babies come from. The last story is about an owl who tries to learn new things to distract him from his grief over losing his wife, while his idiot relatives try to set him up with another owl.

It's hard to say this is all good: there are some rather disturbing stories. One is of a too-cheerful lab rat. Another is about a newborn lamb whose eyes are pecked out, and the accompanying illustration is rather ghastly. "The Judicious Brown Chicken" was also gruesome. Just because these stories about animals doesn't mean they're for kids, or even to be taken lightly. The natural world is actually rather cruel to the fuzzy creatures we know and love, and Sedaris doesn't sugar-coat any of that.

There is humor to be found, but it's mostly the darkly funny kind, not the laugh-out-loud. I'd worry for people who laughed while reading this, actually. Maybe the delivery is better in a live reading, but the words on the page didn't lend themselves to much chuckling.

If you like David Sedaris, or dark and twisted satire, pick this up. It doesn't take long to read. Though, I don't think this is a good sampling if you're trying to figure out if you should read more of Sedaris's books. His nonfiction tends to be lighter than this.

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