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R&R 027 | Me Talk Pretty One Day

David Sedaris
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Abacus, 2002
First published in: 2000
Cover: design by Ian Kaye & Melissa Hayden
Flickr post

Here’s how it went down: I had just finished reading Ian McEwan’s Atonement, a book that affected me quite a bit. Man, did I need a light, fun read after that one. A friend recommended I try out Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris; I had heard of this book before and decided, sure… sounds good to me, I’ll get a copy of this book, made up of a collection of autobiographical articles divided in two sections: part one, and deux. For this review, I decided to point out some of my favourite essays. (Though my examples are just that; you really have to read the stories yourself.)

Part one offers a look into Sedaris’ earlier years: growing up in a colourful Greek-American family in North-Carolina, failing at art school and doing drugzzz. The highlights in this section (for me):
1) David’s father Lou (to whom the book is dedicated) and his passion to form a jazz band a with his uninterested and most importantly musically talentless kids (Giant dreams, midget abilities).
2) Apart from reading about Sedaris’ sisters – including Amy, The Comedian – a foul-mouthed brother is thrown into the mix, saying the nastiest things to his parents while referring to himself as The Rooster (You can’t kill the rooster).
3) A visit to the bathroom reveals the unflushable eh.. stool sample left there by Sedaris’ toileting predecessor. It’s not David’s. But people will think it is. Whaddaya gonna do? (Big Boy)

Part deux, as you may suspect, tells of Sedaris’ move to Paris with his partner Hugh. For me this was the funniest section, including writings on subjects such as learning French or mocking his fellow Americans a little. Here’s a selection of other fun bits:
1) Sedaris is trying to learn French, and one of his methods is to listen to a French ‘medical phrases’ tape. Talking a walk through Paris with his tape playing, Sedaris can be overheard saying things such as “Could I trouble you for a stool sample?” (The tapeworm is in).
2) Sedaris is the American in Paris, and on the subway he overhears American tourists talking about him. They think Sedaris is a French, smelly pickpocket. He’s intrigued with what they come up with and notes down the dialogue in Picka pocketoni.
3) Lou returns, as he does often enough in this book – which does reflect a lot on David’s relationship with his father, as it turns out – and this time with one bad habit: food hoarding. Reminiscent of someone I know who saves food until it goes bad and then eats it anyway, I’ll eat what he’s wearing had me laughing quite a bit, saying “Ohhh don’t I know it!” several times.

And that recognition is perhaps why Me Talk Pretty One Day is a perfect light read, but one that registers in your brain, one you remember. Quite recently, in the car on the way to Wil’s place, I started telling him about Sedaris and some of the stories I selected above. Kind of like, “You wouldn’t BELIEVE what David did next!!” And that’s when it hit me, why this book is so damn likeable. It reads like David is someone you know. He shares his stories with you like you’re buddies. When reading, it kind of feels like you’re at a bar with him, enjoying a few too many appletini’s, and there he is, confiding in you his most personal (ergo, embarrassing) moments, and the two of you are laughing so hard, everyone in the bar is eyeing you, wondering what’s so funny.

Now, being a class act dork myself, I always respect someone who’s not afraid to embarrass himself, entertaining me in the meantime. By opening himself up so candidly regarding recognisable human observations (the everyday life) he has found the perfect formula; David Sedaris may consider himself to be a failure in visual arts, but he most certainly mastered the art of comedy through writing.


R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008

Karin Elizabeth
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