Humorist David Sedaris is back with 'Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls'

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls

by David Sedaris

Little, Brown and Co., $27

In stores Tuesday.

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At first glance, humorist David Sedaris' most recent offering would appear to be Seinfeld-esque, a book about ... nothing.

Though it's certainly a find for the reader who appreciates a sense of humor, it takes a few chapters for a first-time Sedaris critic to understand that the cutting essays are actually selected entries from the timeless storage that literature offers through a diary, albeit a politically incorrect and irreverent journal of one man's walk of life.

What is recollected in Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls are points in time along the journey of everyday living and ultimately the only reason for living: the precious relationships made, whether they be fleeting or enduring, the love found and lost.

And those, for all of us, can be very ugly but funny -- ridiculously funny -- especially through the eyes of Sedaris, an acclaimed humor writer who has made his version of satire a bestseller.

Sedaris' credentials include the other bestselling books of essays Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames. He'll be reading from his material to a sold-out crowd in the Arts & Letters Live series Tuesday at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.

In Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, Sedaris, like the great humorists before him, hits a nerve with his wit, which brings the reader into intimate contact with the human condition. That, he demonstrates, can be a brutal reality that requires various coping mechanisms up to and including illegal substances. And, of course, humor.

Most anyone can relate in some way to Sedaris' experiences. He had a hard-edged father who in Sedaris' youth dressed from the tabletop up in "business casual ... but from there down it was just briefs and bare legs."

It's this same father who as an 89-year-old passed along his secret to longevity: seven gin-soaked raisins a day.

Sedaris wrote that he asked if he could substitute the gin for, say, coffee.

"Do you want to live or don't you?" the father replied.

A profound exercise of the book is the essay If I Ruled the World, in which Sedaris, writing through the eyes of a fictional, unnamed character, poignantly identifies the earthly contradiction of handing down judgments on the gray areas of life using Christ as the truth bearer when in reality those judgments inherently violate the true meaning of Christ and Christianity.

And, lest anyone forget, there was the episode of two young boys taking a Sunday drive with Mom when one spots what he sees as gargantuan guinea pigs.

"Have you seen guinea pigs so big?" the boy asked. "I mean, Jesus."

An embarrassed mother reprimanded the boy for such use of the Lord's name.

"Christ almighty, someone should take a picture," he continued.

Such moments, Sedaris said, are those that need to be kept forever.

And passed along to the masses.

Or even for the family member, he, too, trying to make sense of it all.

The diary is a very handy tool, "though there it plays the same role as a long-lost photograph. 'Remember the time in Greece when I fell asleep on the bus and you coated my eyelids with toothpaste?' I'll say to my brother, Paul.

"To heavy pot smokers, reminders like these are a revelation. 'Wait a minute, we went to Greece?'"

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