David Sedaris explores life with humor in “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls”


Photo Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company.

Bobby Blanchard

David Sedaris does not stray from his typically sarcastic style in his latest book “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls,” in which he writes about politics, rednecks, a husband-stealing sister, gay marriage, kookaburras and owls.

“Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” is a collection of short essays, fictional monologues and even a poem, and Sedaris’ humor is consistent throughout. 

There’s a laugh at the turn of every other sentence, and Sedaris does not hold back any punches — even against himself. Beneath the layers of humor and sarcasm, Sedaris produces serious depth in his writing. 

Similar to his previous works, Sedaris also has short, fictional pieces sprinkled throughout his book. But unlike Sedaris’ previous titles that were divided into two different sections, in this book the fiction and nonfiction works are mixed together.

Sedaris’ non-fiction essays and reflections are much stronger than his fictional monologues, some of which read as preachy, heavily exaggerated and ridiculous. One of the monologues, “I Brake for Traditional Marriage,” is about a conservative who goes crazy after gay marriage is legalized in New York. The conservative kills his family, gets caught in a hit-and-run and ends up kissing his fellow cellmate only to come to the conclusion that kissing another guy is “really not that bad.”

With more than 20 different pieces, the book has plenty of enjoyable moments and few painful ones. Some of his fictional monologues shine, like “Just a Quick Email,” which is a sarcastic, cruel email from a newlywed to a wedding guest that brought pizza coupons as a gift.

But the parts of “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” that stand out are Sedaris’ personal, non-fiction essays about his interactions with his family. Here, Sedaris is at his best. In “Memory Laps,” Sedaris recounts his struggles to make his father proud, centering on a summer when one of Sedaris’ schoolmates outdid him at the local country club’s swimming pool. The humor arises as we observe Sedaris’ frustrated interactions with his parents and siblings.

Sedaris provides commentary on controversial subjects ranging from racism and social class to victim-blaming in sexual-assault cases. In the section on health care and President Barack Obama, Sedaris mocks those who may disagree with him and the political polarization surrounding these issues. 

“Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” does not really explore diabetes with owls, which is probably a good thing. Instead of discussing the health issues of nocturnal birds, Sedaris does what he does best — he makes you laugh.

Sedaris will speak at the Long Center on Wednesday night at 8 p.m.

Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2013 as Sedaris imparts unsweetened wit