Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls Synopsis
From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveller’s experiences.
Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marvelling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist’s shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten. (Booktopia)
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, the author’s most recent collection of predominantly autobiographical essays, is my first David Sedaris experience. It will not be my last. He is undeniably one hell of a good story teller, but it is his frank analysis of his own and others behaviour that makes these pieces memorable.
“Does there come a day in every man’s life when he looks around and says to himself ‘I’ve got to weed out some of these owls?’ I can’t be alone in this, can I?”
I did find some of his childhood experiences saddening, in particular those stemming from his difficult relationship with his father, but I really connected with the resultant’ ‘if you knock me down I’ll just get back up’ attitude that resonates throughout Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.
What really struck me was Sedaris’ acute self awareness and ownership of his foibles, for example his obsession with dental work while living in France and his general fascination with the macabre. An excerpt from a particularly amusing piece ‘Dentists Without Borders’ is available on his website.
A year ago, I arrived and announced that, since my previous visit, I’d been flossing every night. I thought this might elicit some praise–“How dedicated you are, how disciplined!”–but instead she said, “Oh, there’s no need.”
It was the same when I complained about all the gaps between my teeth. “I had braces when I was young, but maybe I need them again,” I told her. An American dentist would have referred me to an orthodontist, but, to Dr. Barras, I was just being hysterical. “You have what we in France call ‘good time teeth,’” she said. “Why on earth would you want to change them?”
Sedaris acknowledges his lifelong need for positive reinforcement and tendency to make unwise choices and recounts his experience with an at times confronting yet hilarious world-weariness. I particularly enjoyed his opinions on cultural differences citing the polar opposite hygiene customs of the Chinese and Japanese, and his experience as an American in Europe after Barrack Obama was elected the first African American president of the United States.
This collection really does have something for everyone – my fellow Aussie readers will appreciate this wonderful line from Sedaris’ as he recounts his meeting a kookaburra for the first time…
“If owls were the professors of the avian kingdom, then kookaburras, I thought, might well be the gym teachers.”
A common theme is the ineptitude of people and pointlessness of their actions. Some of my favourite pieces along this tangent included a consideration of recorded language lessons and his personal quest to better understand litterbugs by examining the ephemera jettisoned from their cars.
In the main Sedaris’ dark and self-deprecating humour was pitched at a level that I found entertaining, but there were a few instances were I found the negativity a little overdone. There are a few short fictional pieces at the end of this collection – while clever and shocking, I enjoyed them less than non-fiction essays.
I am so glad that I chose to listen to the Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls audiobook narrated by Sedaris himself. His deadpan narration adds to the humour (listen to an audio sample of Sedaris discussing taxidermy), but by far his best delivery and timing was on display in those chapters that were recordings of his performances in front of a live audience.
David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is the perfect audiobook to get you through your daily commute.
I have been told this is not his best non-fiction essay collection though, so I will be seeking out some of the vintage Sedaris I’ve heard such great things about in the not too distant future.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
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Genre: Non-fiction, Audio, Humour, Memoir, Short Stories
Author Information: David Sedaris lives in France and UK. Raised in North Carolina, he has worked as a house cleaner and most famously, as a part-time elf for Macy’s. Several of his plays have been produced, and his essays are featured regularly on BBC radio and in The New Yorker and Esquire. Check out his website for lots of great book trailers and book excerpts.
Some of the many other books by David Sedaris include Me Talk Pretty One Day, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Naked.