I admit from the outset that this book was my holiday gift to myself and I went in planning on loving it. And I do love it, but not the way one loves their favorite pair of shoes or a brand new laptop. I love it like you love a cousin you haven’t seen in a few years but who gave you your first tequila shot when you were severely underage.
Don’t look at me like that, I stand by the analogy.
I love David Sedaris’ style. I love his dry wit and the variously interesting ways in which he gets around to the point of his stories. Even though I know there’s likely a twist coming, I am rarely, if ever, able to call it. I love that his books are generally collections of short stories, something that I don’t always appreciate in other authors. I even like that he is adventurous in style choices. Sometimes his books are memoir, sometimes its first person narrative fiction, and this time it’s a riff on fables.
Yep, fables. Although to be fair Sedaris refers to the book as “A Modest Bestiary”.
And that may be the reason why I am not puppy dog in love with this outing as I have been by previous Sedaris books. Even though the animal protagonists are very obviously based on people who populate the world around us, I couldn’t always invest in them. Sure, there are standouts in the book , but I’d say I was most disappointed by the title pair. There just wasn’t a lot to love in the chapter about a squirrel and a chipmunks forbidden love and a misunderstanding about jazz.
There is quite a bit of social commentary to be had, each new chapter with its new animal protagonists. There is a new topic tackled, a new insight aimed for. My favorites include “The Motherless Bear” where an overly needy and selfish bear receives her comeuppance and “The Faithful Setter” following the travails of a
man dog about town. Certainly I felt the stories got stronger as the book, at a mere 120 pages or so, continued. Also, the illustrations by Ian Falconer are both adorable and hilarious in equal measure.