Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Let's Explore Diabetes with OwlsLet's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I so enjoy David Sedaris's humorous essays. I snatched up his latest on audio, because his delivery often adds to the wry humor within. I thoroughly enjoyed his latest collection, though it leans toward slightly different themes than previous collections.

In Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, Sedaris mentions in several essays that he's recently reached the age of 50. His mood is slightly more reflective, almost nostalgic in places, and he's not afraid to come off as an old coot with his "back in my day" ramblings.

His sense of humor is still intact. If anything, it's sharpened as he's grown older. I found myself gasping with laughter at the description of his new passport photo, and kept giggling as he narrated what should've been a grim, depressing story. There's a bit more potty humor, but it's tempered with his usual sardonic wit.

The story about owls ("Understanding Understanding Owls") comes out right off the gate, with Sedaris seeking a taxidermied owl as a Valentine's Day present for his longtime boyfriend, and being recognized by the taxidermist for the strange, morbid person he is. It turns into a poignant reflection on illusions in relationships.

Another favorite essay, "Author, Author," discusses his book tours, and the highlight that is the Q&A portion, when he can interact with fans. One woman in Boston answers a startling question with an offbeat reply, and Sedaris's delivery had me glad I'd pulled over to listen to that part. I would've gone off the road, if I'd laughed that hard while driving.

"Day In, Day Out" discusses his habit of keeping a diary, from which he culls his essays. Not only is it fascinating to learn the process that produces his bestselling books, it allows him to share observations that haven't made it into previous essays.

"Obama!!!" delves into politics, with Sedaris winding up disgusted at foreigners' apparent ownership of our election of a black man as US President. He reflects on the lack of candidates who support gay marriage, and hammers home (in a subtle, self-deprecating way) why that matters.

For those who enjoyed Me Talk Pretty One Day, Sedaris has some more musing about language in "Easy, Tiger," where he discusses learning from the Pimsleur audio program, which allows one to memorize phrases without learning the building blocks. A bonus feature on the audio includes a translation of phrases he would've found a lot more helpful on his journeys.

The weak point in the collection were the handful of fictional narratives in the back, included for students who have to memorize a short piece to perform. I'm not as fond of Sedaris's fiction, though it's often bitingly satirical. They're short, though, clocking in at about a third the size of the shortest nonfiction essay.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection. I wasn't disappointed to have bought it, as I can see myself revisiting several of these essays at some later time.

The audio includes some tracks recorded live, and others in a studio. The sound quality is excellent no matter the venue, and Sedaris's reading can be understood perfectly. If you're interested in reading anything by David Sedaris, I recommend picking it up on audio, because his delivery and timing really bring out the humor.

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