Commentary
5:00 am
Mon April 22, 2013

Book Review: Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls

David Sedaris is known for his self-deprecating wit, obsessive behaviors and sardonic humor. His new book of essays, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, does not disappoint.

Some essays you'll recognize from The New Yorker, but most are new. While he's a great writer, Sedaris is best experienced live. Or at least in audio form. So I listened to the audio book in addition to reading the hardcover, just to savor the perfectly timed dry delivery.

David Sedaris
David Sedaris
Credit bluelephant / Flickr

One essay that's great in either form is "Understanding Understanding Owls," where Sedaris is on mission to find a taxidermied owl for a Valentine's Day gift. This is illegal in the United States, so he waits until he's in the United Kingdom where it's still not legal to kill an owl, but they're not as protected once dead.

Sedaris does, indeed, find a stuffed owl, but almost immediately the taxidermist asks if he'd like to see some other interesting items, and proceeds to show him ancient mummified humans: a Pygmy hunted for sport, a 400-hundred-year-old head of a young South American girl, and the arm of a sailor severed in a bar fight.

Sedaris is bothered not by the fact that the taxidermist could tell that he actually would like to see them, nor by the fact that the head and the arm were stored in grocery bags. It was the difference in the grocery stores that disturbed him. What did the young girl do to deserve storage in a Tesco bag? "At least the arm was in a Waitrose bag," he says.

Sedaris touches on topics like growing up in the Sedaris household, living in Europe and socialized health care. Some essays on the audio book are recorded in studio, some are recorded during live performances.

All made me smile.

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