David Sedaris just keeps on bringing the ridiculousness of our lives to the fore, forcing us to look, really look at some of our less heroic moments...and laugh. What a (sometimes hysterical) relief it is to know that our own stupidity or failures are not unique to ourselves. He also tells us what we look like to others when we are less than our better selves. I often wonder what it would be like to be laughing along with his listening crowd, only to come to recognize some of the stories he is relating. "I was there!" would certainly better than "That was me!"
My favorite Sedaris bits come when he is talking about his experiences travelling or learning a new language. In this new book he has a section about taking planes that had me shaking with laughter…how people, especially Americans, put on their most ragged clothes to travel across the world or across the country mystifies both him and me. “I want to be comfortable,” I have heard travelers wearing worn sweat pants explain, as though wearing silks and cashmere is not comfortable. Cost is not really an issue: anyone flying to China or Australia can certainly spring for a new sweater.
But I was also surprised this time how some of Sedaris’ jokes felt edgy, jagged, and hurtful. I realize that beating up on his Dad is one of his schticks. And if what he says in the beginning of this series of routines were true, about his Dad beating him and blaspheming him as a kid, then I guess his Dad is getting off easy by being the brunt of his jokes as Sedaris travels around the world broadcasting to everyone who will listen. But I long ago learned that hurtful things said “in jest” are not really funny to anyone but the jester.
Sedaris talks a little about how he makes up his routines by keeping a journal as he travels. He spends time taking brief notes when something strikes him as remarkable, and then he spends a lot of time typing it up into what was so remarkable about it so that he can remember it clearly. His endless stories are not things “that just come to mind:” he really works at it, even if it means he doesn’t have time to see all the sights in those great places he visits on his speaking tours.
My least favorite part of this book was a special section he created because he discovered that young people liked to use his work as dramatic monologues. He didn’t think his previous work had enough of the elements that would make a dramatic monologue successful, so he set about making something new just for those folks interested to try it themselves. I thought perhaps these would be better with someone else doing the reading…a droll young woman, perhaps, or a dull young boy.
Anyway, Sedaris is always interesting for what he sees about the world and dares to speak.
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