It's very rare for a book to make me laugh out loud, but I did with every essay in David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. That was the first book I read of his, and I've read many, many more since. When I heard he was coming out with a new collection, Calypso, a friend kindly agreed to lend me her copy.
Sedaris is unapologetically judgemental and biting. There isn't a thing in the world he can't find a way to complain about. In the essay Leviathan, David's partner Hugh is yelling at him for always focusing on the negative instead of the positive. He fires back, "Honestly, though, does choice even come into it? Is it my fault that the good times fade to nothing while the bad ones burn forever bright? Memory aside, the negative just makes for a better story: the plane was delayed, an infection set in, outlaws arrived and reduced the schoolhouse to ashes. Happiness is harder to put into words. It's also harder to source, much more mysterious than anger or sorrow, which come to me promptly, whenever I summon them, and remain long after I've begged them to leave."
For me, this is why Sedaris' writing is so devilishly delicious. He says the things everyone is thinking, but would never say out loud. For example, in The Perfect Fit, about a trip to Japan with his sisters Amy and Gretchen, he talks about significant others joining in on vacation and how they are always secondary characters. "When we returned in January 2016, it made sense to bring our sister Gretchen with us. Hugh was there as well, and while he's a definite presence, he didn't figure into the family dynamic. Mates, to my sisters and me, are seen mainly as shadows of the people they're involved with. They move. They're visible in direct sunlight. But because they don't have access to our emotional buttons - they can't make us twelve again, or five, and screaming - they don't really count as players."
The majority of the essays in this book are set at the Sedaris family beach house in North Carolina. Their mother and sister Tiffany have both passed away, so their family unit is a bit smaller and they focus a lot of attention on spending time with their dad. Some of my favorite moments are the conversations between David, his siblings and their aging father. My family is also happiest at the beach, so I related to the annual gathering at a seaside location that has been part of your life for as long as you've roamed the earth.
While I didn't laugh as hard reading this book as I have with the others, I continue to be impressed by Sedaris' never-ending well of stories. Over the decades, he has continued to showcase his "eviscerating wit" as Fiona Maazel from O, The Oprah Magazine called it.
Have you read Calypso? Tell me, what did you think?
*Image courtesy of Philly.com.