A couple of days ago I read US humourist David Sedaris’ new book of essays Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (Abacus). I really enjoy his writing, while it is often acerbic, it is also side-splittingly funny and honest, and very humane: Sedaris is able to celebrate all our flaws and foibles, especially the ones we like to believe nobody notices we have.
In this collection Sedaris tells stories from his travels. He visits Beijing and comes face to face (kinda literally) with the wilder shores of Chinese cuisine, he goes to live in England and finds himself patrolling his local country lanes in a King Canute-ish attempt to hold back the tide of litter that threatens the countryside; on a trip to North Carolina he discovers the dubious, slightly guilt-inducing but OMG, its so cheap to buy so much! wonder that is the big-box store Costco. Closer to home he describes life chez Sedaris when he was a boy: the first thing his father did when he got home at the end of the day was take off his trousers and spend the rest of the evening in his underwear, none of the family ever remarked on this somewhat unusual habit as it just was, as it had always been.
I really liked the essay about his search for a taxidermy owl for his beloved: at one curious shop in London the owner shows him a taxidermied human arm, withdrawing it from one of those ubiquitous plastic supermarket bags (not even, Sedaris notes, one of the upmarket UK supermarkets either) where it appears to have been indefinitely stored. After some fascinated/horrified perusing, Sedaris takes himself off, worrying about why the owner, as odd as his shop, thought Sedaris would like to see this usually hidden item. What had the shop owner divined about Sedaris, what deep calling to deep took place that meant that the other customers who had been in the shop were allowed to leave without being shown the tattooed treasure? And, finally, Sedaris has to admit that he had indeed liked seeing it, and that he isn’t quite sure what that says about him.
Also: great title, huh? and the simple book cover design looks amazing on the table with all the other books…