Hark! A Vagrant (CBR8 #49)

I’m glad I lent crystalclear the Hamilton book when I had it out from the library, or I’d feel in real friend debt, since she has been lending me books all year. This is another delivery from her, and it served as a palate cleanser between Children of God, When a Scot Ties the Knot, and The House of the Spirits. Yes, I have weird reading habits, Casino Royale was in there too for a short time.

Its tough for me to review this book, crystalclear declined to, not being able to figure out how to say “just go read it, the cartoons are funny” in 250 words (did I get that right? I hope I did.) Since I have a rule to review everything, I’m sitting here typing furiously, trying to explain to you why I really liked this book, but I still only gave it three stars.

The problem, as usual, is me.

Comics just are not my thing. I’ve tried a couple different variations on graphic novel type literature and universally my brain just doesn’t process information that way. I also was never a big Sunday comics reader, I’d skim a few when I could pry the section from my parents or grandparents, but not much more.  Beaton, however, is exactly the type of writer who should hit my funny bone, and does, most of the time. Her writing is a wry, delightful, and shows an intelligent wit and her line drawings accomplish so much with so little. It’s no wonder to me at all that so many of you have liked this book a great deal.

If you’re in the mood for the comic version of Texts with Jane Eyre, then this is the book you are most rightly looking for.

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


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.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (CBR4 #2)

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.