David Sedaris hits middle age

Turning 50 adds to author’s arsenal of life experiences to lampoon

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc.

In previous books, David Sedaris has mined his childhood and early twenties for amusing anecdotes, leaving many fans to wonder if there’s anything left to say. There is. Plenty.

His latest essays sparkle with newness and the confidence of a writer hitting middle age. Sure, fans will recognize the cast of characters—his boyfriend, Hugh, his sisters, his country home—but this familiarity only enriches reading about Sedaris’s neurotic flailing. Success has given him more resources and, with this book, everyone benefits.

Sedaris begins the collection with “Dentists without Borders,” a hilarious American counterpoint to the aria of dental misery in Martin Amis’s memoir Experience.

Sedaris’s signature anxiety undermines his jet-setting lifestyle, leaving us free from jealousy to savour stories that could stultify if told by another. He puts his usual unexpected twist on the mundane—getting his passport stolen, waiting in line for coffee at a Marriott. He feels “Titanically gay” at a Costco. He describes Australia as Canada in a thong. Turning 50 has only added to Sedaris’s arsenal of life experiences to lampoon, like his colonoscopy.

Occasionally, things get political. The gay marriage issue, Sedaris quips, is “like voting on whether or not redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas.”

Stories of Sedaris’s father are peppered throughout the collection and are, predictably, unflattering. Young David was belittled by his dad, made to feel second fiddle to a local swimming champ, and even Donny Osmond. Sedaris couldn’t get his father’s approval even after writing a book that landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Jeez. There is a shocking moment of score settling with his dad that is so emotionally complicated it made this reader impatient for Sedaris’s next seemingly light-hearted book of amusing anecdotes. It’s funny—funny like a spade to the face.

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