There's long list of words and phrases that we, culturally, grossly over-use. To me, the three most egregious are love, literally, and 'laugh out loud funny.' And then I read David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls and it was, literally, laugh out loud funny, and I loved every page of it.
Funny aside - when this book showed up on our book club reading list, I raved to my fellow clubbers about David Sedaris, and told this great story about another book of his I'd read and how I'd laughed out loud just reading the publication page. Only it turned out, once I picked up Owls and read what other books Sedaris has written, that the author I was referring to was David Eggers.
I don't normally read essays, or even very many short stories. I am mostly a novels reader. But that is one of the reasons I joined a book club - to broaden the scope of what I read. Also for the wine, food and great company, but in terms of it being a book club as opposed to some other kind of club - I really wanted to be introduced to books I wouldn't normally read. Anything subtitled "essays, etc" would definitely have fallen into that category if this book hadn't been our selection this month, and I would truly have been missing out.
Some of Sedaris' essays are at least loosely autobiographical and moderately non-fiction. Some of them are outlandish character sketches. All of them are revelatory and heart-warming. In even the most bizarre, triggering episodes that allude to attempted rape or edge on to what we now consider child abuse have a tender charm that brings us back to a world where love and gratitude and appreciation cover a multitude of sins.
In fact, one of the things I like best about this collection of 'essays, etc' is how well edited it is to fulfill on that promised final pay off. Although the stories jump around in time and space - 1970's Raleigh North Carolina, to 2008 West Sussex, England, with stops in China, Chicago, New York, Japan, Australia - the constant theme of connectedness carries through. Sedaris may try to pass himself off as a heartless disengaged teenager when he returns from a school trip to England to find his mother has died, but underneath all the English slang is a longing and sensitivity that left me both laughing until tears ran down my legs, and wishing I could give young David a long hug and a cup of cocoa.
I loved this book. It was literally laugh out loud funny. And touching, poignant, intelligent, and eye-opening.
About the club, not the book:
I arrived at book club an hour late, having made my way straight there from the ferry. What a lovely way to end a long day - delicious salmon, scalloped potatoes, fresh tomato salad, pinot grigio and fabulous conversation. As usual, only 10% of the conversation was actually about the book, but I think we like it that way.