Book Reviews: Me Talk Pretty One Day

A few notes: I know I’m a bit late to the David Sedaris love-in, but hey, at least I made it. I don’t usually read non-fiction, although the collection of essays in Me Talk Pretty One Day, written about David’s life, sometimes seems to border on the fictional. I borrowed this book from my mom who didn’t think it was all that funny and I was laughing like a maniac two pages in. Also, insert fluffy reading disclaimer here.

The first thing is that it is laugh out loud funny. There where times when I actually had to put the book down to laugh and after the first time I made a mess, I tried never to be drinking anything while reading it. I laughed especially over “Today’s Special,” “You Can’t Kill the Rooster,” “Jesus Shaves,” and “The Tapeworm is In.” I think my favorite, and the most profound piece of the book, is “Remembering my childhood on the continent of Africa.”

He starts out talking about his early life in Raleigh, NC so, of course, I felt some connection with him immediately over the shared place. He talks about his family a lot in the first half of the book and while they are all seemingly overwhelmed by their idiosyncrasies, David still seems as if he likes and cares for them all. I admire his ability to take real people and their usually frustrating habits and, instead of poking fun at them, he somehow makes them interesting, witty and likable. He draws them in such a way that you recognize your friends and relatives in their habits and voices.

In the second half of the book he talks about spending time in France and his struggle learning French. I identified with that because I had such trouble with learning a foreign language in high school and now regret not being multi-lingual, if for no other reason than I can’t teach it to Eli. He treats the people around him with the same care as he does his own family, although he has much more limited interactions with them because of the language barrier.

My favorite essay by far though was “Remembering my childhood on the continent of Africa.” In it, David talks about how dull his childhood was in comparison to Hugh’s (his partner) childhood growing up as the son a a U.S. State Department Officer. In this piece David makes an interesting juxtaposition between David’s Southern American city life and the more gritty life Hugh lead in multiple African countries. It would seem that it would come down to a grass-is-always-greener bitterness but once again, David does something more interesting…

“Someone unknown to me was very likely standing in a muddy ditch and dreaming of an evening spent sitting in a clean family restaurant, drinking iced tea and working his way through an extra-large seaman’s platter, but that did not concern me, as it meant I should have been happy with what I had. Rather than surrender to my bitterness, I have learned to take satisfaction in the life that Hugh has led. His stories have, over time, become my own. I say this with no trace of kumbaya. There is no spiritual symbiosis; I’m just a petty thief who lifts his memories the same way I’ll take a handful of change left on his dresser. When my own experiences fall short of the mark, I just go out and spend some of his.”

I really enjoyed this book. It was funny and heart-warming as well. I can’t believe I just wrote heart-warming, by the way, since I usually only use that in reference to Hummel figurines. I will definitely be reading more by David Sedaris. does that mean I’m a non-fiction reader now? Go figure. Next up I’m rereading The Elements of Style because I can’t seem to get my comma and semi-colon use under control and have to send frantic emails to Stephen to bail me out of my grammar tangle.

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