There were several sections of David Sedaris’s latest book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, that made me laugh out loud, but one paragraph in particular stands out. It was in an essay called “Easy, Tiger”, which discusses—among other things—the limitations of using Lonely Planet phrase books in foreign countries. I read it with the remembrance of carrying my own language guide around Japan for several months, relying on the various stock and oft-unnatural phrases, and the bit just got me.
If you’ve enjoyed Sedaris’s previous collections, then Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls—a collection of essays and monologues (the latter of which can be puzzling until you realize that they are indeed fictional)—is worth a read. But even if you aren’t familiar with his writing, it’s not a bad place to start. Your mileage may vary based on your experience and sense of humour, yet Sedaris’s way with words makes intriguing even the more serious pieces of writing. You never know when you’ll come across a real gem of a phrase, such as this one describing the home of a childhood friend: “Their house had real hardcover books in it, and you often saw them lying open on the sofa, the words still warm from being read.”
He covers a wide variety of topics, with common threads being politics, travel, and childhood. He often tells stories about his family, and especially his father, whose “standard around-the-house outfit” entails a notable absence of pants. Particularly effective essays include “Loggerheads” (which involves a discussion of majestic sea turtles contrasted with Sedaris’s “childhood love of nature, or, more specifically, of catching things and unintentionally killing them”) and “Understanding Understanding Owls” (in which a quest to find a stuffed owl in London taxidermy shops takes a macabre turn).
Written in the inimitable style of someone who has made a career out of being quirky, the book is an entertaining read that reiterates Sedaris’s talent for nailing punchlines right when you least expect it.