Arizona Daily Wildcat
Awkward situations, wacky family anecdotes produces big
Poking fun at complete strangers is generally looked down upon. Taking delight in others' misfortunes can be construed as sick.
But when people air the dirty laundry of their own families to the world, it is not only downright hilarious, it also makes for wonderful books.
Author David Sedaris, in his fourth book, "Me Talk Pretty One Day," uses his childhood memories of his family of six siblings as material for this newest short story collection. The book is a compilation of tales from Sedaris' youth that he portrays as the breeding ground of the cynicism and sarcasm of his adult years.
The book opens with the story, "Go Carolina," which is the largely exaggerated tale of Sedaris' struggle with a speech impediment during his elementary years, and more importantly, the conflict he had with his overly strict speech coach whom he likened to an FBI agent come to take him away for ruthless interrogation.
The stories range from the hilarious to the taboo. In the story, "The Youth in Asia," Sedaris borders on the offensive with his frank discussion of pet cremation. The plot follows Sedaris' wacky family through the decades-long chronology of its household pets, which includes his father's overzealous adoration of the family dog, a very large Great Dane named Melinda and his mother's strange sleeping patterns with the family cat, Sadie.
Sedaris' anecdotes, furthermore, deftly uncover the hilarity in often uncomfortable and awkward situations. The tale "Big Boy" is based on the embarrassing existence of an abnormally large human feces floating in a toilet bowl. The story centers solely on the waste, and Sedaris' attempts to get rid of it.
Two of the stand-out stories are "Genetic Engineering" and "Twelve Moments in the life of an Artist." Both stories concern Sedaris' personal and family dysfunctions.
"Genetic Engineering" follows his family's beach vacation one summer when his father entertains the local fishermen with mathematical equations written in the sand. His mother, meanwhile, engages the children in a yearly tanning contest, dubbed the Miss Emollient Pageant, in which Sedaris' sister Gretchen would always sweep the title. According to Sedaris, Gretchen would assume daily a variety of suggestive tanning positions causing other mothers to cover the eyes of their children.
In "Twelve Moments in the life if an Artist," Seadaris takes the reader on his journey toward becoming an artist, featuring an interesting deviation in which he becomes addicted to methamphetamines. The drug only intensified Sedaris' confidence concerning his own artistic genius. It also caused him to cut food and sleep from his life, freeing up enough time for Sedaris to engage in high-speed conversations with unwilling listeners.
Sedaris, as evidenced by this superior collection of stories, is one of the funniest storytellers since Bill Cosby. His stories are wacky, but honest and inspired.
And although Sedaris is a gay man, he does not dwell on the issue. References to boyfriends or boyhood crushes are only sprinkled within his stories - and when included, appropriately fit within the narrative. The success of his literature is instead grounded in his own quirky sensibility and witty voice which would appeal to any audience.