The first time I read anything by David Sedaris was over a weekend when a friend and I had taken the train up from Central Illinois to housesit for my aunt and uncle. I was in high school, and this was my first major “solo” adult outing.
I picked up Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day at the Borders on Michigan Ave. and felt pretty extravagant because of it.
We didn’t have a Borders. Not coincidentally, the now-defunct chain therefore held a cosmopolitan mystique.
I share this to help communicate the position of Sedaris in the formation of my adult identity.
I bought those books at a grown-up store, in a grown-up city, during a weekend stretch of independence.
I read Naked first and laughed aloud throughout the book.
Thinking, “Adults get to read all the cool stuff,” I didn’t occur to me that Sedaris’ stories were connecting adult content with adolescent humor. What made them funny to adults was that he was dealing with adult content, but thinking about it in a way adults weren’t supposed to. What made it funny to me was that he was writing for my sensibilities.
Having completed Sedaris’ latest effort, Let’s Discuss Diabetes with Owls, I’m glad to know we’re progressing apace of one another.
The book presents a more mature Sedaris. Throughout each essay and story there was a feel of trying to understand things, of peering through his narrative telescope to find fodder in his life and realizing things look different from farther away.
While his essay “Loggerheads” evoked moments of wincing and laughing, the piece concluded with me turning to my friend Abby and saying, with a slight lump in my throat, “Dammit, I don’t expect him to be poignant.”
Where one of Naked’s concluding essays skirted around issues of the sexual and hilariously profain, Sedaris presents several entries in Owls that speak more directly to his sexuality in terms of the love he feels for his boyfriend Hugh. One takes on the issue of gay marriage in a logically political way that I found myself thinking a younger Sedaris wouldn’t have attempted.
“States vote to take away my marriage rights, and even though I don’t want to get married,” he writes in “Obama!!!!!, “it tends to hurt my feelings. I guess what bugs me is that it was put to a vote in the first place. If you don’t want to marry a homosexual, then don’t. But what gives you the right to weigh in on your neighbor’s options? It’s like voting on whether or not redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas.”
Whereas this struck me an evolution in Sedaris’ voice, readers will also find the biting comedy they remember from earlier works like Barrel Fever. In “I Break for Traditional Marriage,” Sedaris writes as a married man who finds justification of his killing spree following his local legislature’s legalization of same-sex marriage. It was an essay that had me laughing in the blend of hilarity and discomfort I’ve come to hope for from Sedaris. At the same time, the awkwardness was made more important, more personal because of the content of earlier non-fiction essays.
I was content upon concluding Let’s Discuss Diabetes with Owls because it had given me the experience I was hoping for as a long-time fan and because it offered assurance that Sedaris and I are both growing up nicely.