A few words about a few books

These are all books by authors I’ve previously reviewed and loved and gushed on and on about, so I thought I’d spare us all the embarrassment and just give you a quick blurb, in case you are also a crazy fan person.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is another great read by David Sedaris, who rants about his technoloathing (not technophobia for him, no sir), bemoans his ability to communicate in French (hence the title) and cracks wise about the death of pets and parents.  I’ve waxed poetic about my love for Sedaris before, so I’ll just say he continues to satisfy my every snarky impulse.

Maps & Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands is a collection of essays by Michael Chabon that were originally printed in such places as The Washington Post  Book World, New York Review of Books and Architectural Digest (yes, really). His non-fiction is as precise and entertaining as his fiction writing, and he likes some of the same people I do (Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, comic books), so I’ve forgiven him for Sherlock Holmes.  Worth every penny of the $8 I spent at the Powell’s sale rack (and probably more).

Gentleman and Players is another winner by Joanne Harris. The story of an all-boys school in modern-day England, it explores the pain of growing up, the role of teachers in our lives, and the relentless march of time vs. the proud traditions of the past.  Not as powerful as Blackberry Wine or Holy Fools, but a great read.

Animal Vegetable Miracle is the family memoir of a year spent trying to eat local. Barbara Kingsolver, along with her husband and two daughters, commit to a full year of trying to grow as much of their own food as possible, buy food from no farther than an hour from their home (in the southern Appalachians), and try to live a life-less-damaging (to the planet). The book includes recipes as well as essays on some of the statistics behind commercial food production and what-not, but is mostly the journal of a fabulous writer who happens to be trying something difficult and important. I’ve yet to read a book by this woman that didn’t impress me. It makes me happy that there are people like her sharing the planet with me.

Who doesn’t like getting naked?

David Sedaris is one crazy man, and I mean that in the best way. I collect crazy people. I only wish that I could add him to my stable of friends instead of just my bookshelf. The David Sedaris I know from his memoir, naked, is the kind of friend you want to hang out with (though probably not live with or depend on in any significant way).  He is not afraid to reveal the most embarrassing details of his life – past and present – and possibly even invent more so as to be even more entertaining.  His self-deprecating manner belies his ego and together make the David we read about a hilarious character in a mundane world.  No subject is off-limits.  Incest, poor job skills, immigrant grandparents, facial tics, cancer – none of these topics fails to get a laugh in his capable hands.

For those who have issues with that big, fat line between the Truth and everything else, this may not be your kind of memoir.  I don’t mean to say that Sedaris is a liar (see: James Frey making up whole sections of his supposed true story of addiction and recovery), but that he relates his past in the way that he experienced it  – full of imagined realities and the recurring wish that his life was other than it was.

The line between truth and fiction is porous and often impossible to find — and really unimportant here. Sedaris seems to write memoirs in order to reveal a truth so universal that we all know it while we spend our lives trying to escape it.  Namely – we are all crazy and misunderstood, but somehow loved all the same.  Families are dysfunctional and damaging but still the thing that made us into the incredibly unique and hum-drum individuals we are today and will become tomorrow.

I took a Creative Non-fiction writing course last summer, and Sedaris was one of the authors we read examples from.  I liked what I read, so his name was added to the ‘maybe’ list.  I saw his Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim at the library and loved it.  I got naked at Borders, along with bonk.  So you all know what was on my mind that day….

Sedaris is often lumped in with Augusten Burroughs, both funny, gay male memoirists.  And while I enjoyed Running with Scissors by Burroughs, Sedaris is more to my tastes.  I think the quality of observation in Sedaris’s writing is thorough and expressive, whereas Burroughs is closer to internal monologue than analytic exposition.  Which is a lot of big words to say that Sedaris has more to say about his life (or imagined life), while Burroughs seems to just describe it –though he does that in an entertaining and skillful manner.  Anyone unaware of my penchant for analysis has not been paying attention.

So next time you have an evening with no friends to entertain you, curl up with with my buddy, Dave, and exercise your mind and your abs at the same time.  Cocktails optional.