Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (CBR6 #17)




I am a fan of David Sedaris’s view of the world. I have read every book he has written, starting with Me Talk Pretty One Day shortly after its publication in 2000 and as I am want to do, I then began working immediately through his catalogue. And I have loved them. But something is happening, and I do not know if it’s me, or if it’s him, or if perhaps we are just in a rough spot in our relationship. I laughed fewer times while reading Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls than with any other David Sedaris work I’ve encountered. And there were parts that I, in fact, hated.

It feels like blasphemy to say so.

Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

A guy walks into a bar car and…

From here the story could take many turns. When the guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.

Sedaris remembers his father’s dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants), his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant), and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered Pygmy. The common thread? Sedaris masterfully turns each essay into a love story: how it feels to be in a relationship where one loves and is loved over many years, what it means to be part of a family, and how it’s possible, through all of life’s absurdities, to grow to love oneself.

With LET’S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS, David Sedaris shows once again why he is widely considered the “the funniest writer in America” (O, the Oprah Magazine).

Ok, so here’s where I think it lost me – I didn’t get the idea that each of the main essays was intended to be rumination about love or that love was meant to be the common link. It just wasn’t clear to me. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but here we are. I missed that main thrust which left me feeling adrift in the book as I went from chapter to chapter.

The other big piece of the unhappy puzzle is this – there are things inside the book described as the “etc”. In the Author’s Note Sedaris explains that he has included pieces designed to be utilized by students he has met over the years who participate in Forensics, where students take published short stories, edit them to a predetermined length, and recite them competitively. I hated all of them. I didn’t find them amusing, and I couldn’t imagine listening to a teenager perform them. I should’ve just skipped them, but my completionistic nature wouldn’t let me.

So, what’s my final verdict? I don’t know. Probably read if you are a diehard Sedaris fan, but I don’t know that this is the best place to jump in.

Or it could just be me.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

Partly Cloudy Patriot (CBR4 #8)


It’s quite shocking what a difference a few years can make when you go about rereading books. I picked up Partly Cloudy Patriot from my bookshelf last week mostly because although I knew I had read it, I couldn’t remember the particulars. Also, I was waiting for a book to come down the friend tree.

I really like Sarah Vowell’s writing, and I identify with her as a similarly minded person. Her opinions and habits ring true to me, even if she tends to take those opinions, behaviors, and habits to the extreme. Like David Sedaris, Vowell approaches her work as a series of vignettes, many of which formerly saw life in magazines or radio spots as she is a regular contributor to This American Life. Vowell is, for me, an exemplar of proficient writing. The language is rich, but does not leave one with a stomach ache.

What really struck me with this read was the content. Partly Cloudy Patriot was put together in 2002 and many of the stories included in the anthology reflect what life was like in the months following President George W. Bush’s election in 2000 and less than a year later the September 11th attack. These events have become the watershed moments for a generation, but we tend to only think about them in the long-term or the ‘where were you when’ contexts. It’s interesting to me to see where we were as it was happening, and before the rewriting of memory takes hold.

It should be noted that not all of the entries in Partly Cloudy Patriot reflect on these two events, but it is certainly akin to reading a time capsule sent forward a decade. I also realized that there are several of Vowell’s books I haven’t read, so that’s good news for me as well based on this impulse read.