Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc. by David Sedaris (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 288 pp)
David Sedaris is an American humorist and the author of Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, among many others. He graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago and currently lives in West Sussex, England.
Five seasons in, I’m facing a dilemma with the critically acclaimed series, Modern Family. Each episode treads on the same ideas. Phil Dunphy does something silly. Jay Pritchett makes a snide comment about his stepson’s masculinity. Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett are fighting about something.
And yet, the show is really funny. As long as I accept the show on entertainment value alone and set aside my desires for any reinvention of the creative wheel, I enjoy my Wednesday evenings.
This principle applies equally to the works of David Sedaris. Eight books in, Sedaris is who he is; he writes about what he writes about. I tautologically describe him to say there’s not much new about what I’m reading in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Sedaris’ humor is expected.
But if I accept him on entertainment value alone, his latest release is rather enjoyable.
Loosely, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls discusses family dynamics and the neurotic details and oddities of the ways we relate to those we love.
Sedaris capably writes on these issues with a careful balance of gravitas and sarcasm:
“My dad was like the Marine Corps, only instead of tearing you to pieces and then putting you back together, he just did the first part and called it a day. Now it seems cruel, abusive even, but this all happened before the invention of self-esteem, which, frankly, I think is a little overrated” (38).
But really, most of the essays in this book function well due to their comic sensibilities—such as Sedaris’ note on his father’s odd dressing habits:
“Oh God, I thought, as did everyone else at the table. For when it was dinnertime and someone came calling, it was always our father who insisted on answering the door and on telling whoever it was, very firmly, that it was not a good idea to interrupt people while they were eating. It could be a woman from down the street or maybe one of our friends. It might be a Girl Scout selling cookies or a strange man with a petition, but when that door was flung open, everyone on the other side of it wore the same expression, a startled, quizzical look that translated, in that gentler, more polite time, to ‘Where are your pants, sir’” (16-17)?
Truly, Sedaris is one of the best writers around when it comes to making me laugh out loud. Many of the funniest authors don’t cause laughter for me. But Sedaris sure does.
However, one odd aspect of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is the “etc.” in the subtitle. Sedaris notes the growing popularity of competitive essay reading—almost a 50-50 split between debate and drama. As a gift, Sedaris has included a collection of short fictional pieces. These “etc.” essays confused early on as I didn’t know why Sedaris was referring to himself as a woman. But they weren’t deal breakers for the book.
Much like Modern Family, David Sedaris has a voice and he doesn’t stray from it. As long as you go into the book looking for entertainment value above literary merit, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is recommended
Verdict: 4 out of 5