Calypso ~ A Capsule Book Review

Calypso cover
~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~ 

David Sedaris (born 1956) is a well-known American humor writer. He has written a dozen or so books of “essays,” which in reality are first-person short stories that he writes about his own life and experiences, his large family, and his “long-time companion,” a “handsome” man named Hugh. (Yes, David is gay, but he’s more a writer “who happens to be gay” than a “gay writer.”)

I first became of fan of David Sedaris’s books back in the nineties and even, at one time, spent over an hour standing in line at a book-signing in St. Louis to get him to autograph my copy of his book—copies of two of his books, in fact, both of which I still have. In David’s own pointed brand of humor, he admits that he does so many book-readings and book-signings all over the world because he makes money from them—enough money, I would imagine, to sustain an opulent lifestyle. More power to him.

David Sedaris comes from a family that provides much of the material for his writing. He had four sisters (one of whom committed suicide) and one brother, who is five feet two and sounds like a lady on the phone. David also, he admits, is taken for a woman on the phone and is frequently called “ma’am.” David’s mother died of cancer of age sixty-two; his father, at the writing of Calypso, was still living and in his nineties.

Among the topics David Sedaris writes about in Calypso are:

  • His family’s vacation home at Emerald Isle, North Carolina.
  • A large snapping turtle with a tumor on his head.
  • A wild fox near his home in rural England that he bonds with.
  • Buying unusual clothes in Tokyo, including culottes for men.
  • Having an abdominal tumor removed by a stranger after one of his book-signings.
  • Having a stomach virus.
  • Being on a plane with a fellow passenger who craps his pants.
  • Flying in first-class with an obnoxious woman with a loud voice.

David Sedaris’s books are breezy reading and entertaining. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t read every new one that comes out. They’re not for everybody, of course, which might be said about anything. I wouldn’t, for example, recommend his books to a person who has no sense of humor and is unable to laugh at the absurdity of life.

My one complaint about Calypso is when the author discusses politics and certain political figures. He stands to offend a large segment of the reading public who doesn’t agree with him politically. Not everybody is of the same political stripe. And besides which, I hate politics. The best politics is no politics.

Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp     

Theft by Finding ~ A Capsule Book Review

Theft by Finding ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

David Sedaris is a humor writer whose work is not raunchy or cruel. I’ve read all his books (Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, When You are Engulfed in Flames, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Holidays on Ice, Naked, Barrel Fever) and I usually buy his latest book from Amazon as soon as it comes out. I stood in line for over an hour at one of his book signings to get him to sign my copies of Holidays on Ice and Me Talk Pretty One Day. Then I sat down and rested.

His books are made up of engaging stories that, since they are true and not fiction, are informal “essays.” He writes about his family, people he’s met, his travels, and things that have happened to him, good or bad. His latest book, Theft by Finding, is something of a departure for him, because it’s not these informal essays but is instead diary entries going back forty years.

That’s what Theft by Finding is: 512 pages of diary entries. Some of the entries are little anecdotes and some are less than that. In his introduction, he says that he imagines people not reading the whole book page for page, but instead “dipping in” the way you would with a high school yearbook. I read the whole book page for page. If you think it’s tedious, it isn’t, especially after you’ve read for a while. The most engaging diary entries are the ones where he is recounting things he’s heard people say and things he’s seen them do, as in the IHOP restaurants where he used to hang out a lot, first in his home town of Raleigh, North Carolina, and then in Chicago. When he’s not hanging out at the IHOP, he’s struggling to make a living cleaning apartments or sanding furniture. He has not had an easy life, or if he has an easy life now, it hasn’t always been that way. He is kind of an “everyman,” uncovering the absurdity of living in the world today. You easily recognize yourself in what he’s saying. That must be the key to his popularity.    

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls ~ A Capsule Book Review

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls cover

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp 

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is the title of David Sedaris’s new book of essays. This book is much like David Sedaris’s seven other books of essays (Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on Ice, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You are Engulfed in Flames, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk), meaning that it’s funny, entertaining and full of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

If you are a fan of David Sedaris, you know that his writing is as easy and quick to read as anything you’ve ever read in your life. The word “essays” seems a little formal and academic for these little stories that differ from fiction stories in that they are about real life instead of being made up. They could easily pass for fiction if you didn’t know any better. At the center of each story is David Sedaris himself talking about things that have happened to him (sometimes, but not very often, in the voice of somebody else).

The experiences he relates involve everything from his outspoken, rough-around-the-edges parents to visiting a French dentist to dealing with litter in the English countryside; from having a colonoscopy to meeting an interesting stranger on a European train; from feeding strips of meat to a kookaburra (a large bird) in Australia to dealing with a stolen laptop computer; from eating at less-than-sanitary restaurants in China to purchasing a stuffed owl from a very forthcoming British taxidermist.

The only thing about Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls that I didn’t like is when he ventures into the odious and offensive subject of politics. I despise politics, politicians and all things political. I would rather not hear anybody’s political views. If you don’t bore me with politics, I will extend you the same courtesy.

David Sedaris is a true literary star, a real celebrity, although you’d never know it from his humble demeanor and appearance. Years ago I stood in line for over an hour at one of his book signing events to get him to sign my copies of Holidays on Ice and Me Talk Pretty One Day. (The bookstore where the event took place waived its no-smoking policy for him only for that evening.) I had been to many book signings but had never stood in line that long before (or since). Somehow it seemed worth it. I still have the two signed books. Maybe someday it will be like owning a signed, first-edition copy of Tom Sawyer.

Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp