The short: 3/5 ✦. A collection of mildly humorous essays on mostly minor events.
Does it count as a humor book if it didn’t make me laugh?
Well, I did chortle a couple of times, so let’s say it does.
I chose this book for Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge; eighth on the list is “a funny book”. I’d been holding that one for when the newest Diary of Wimpy Kid comes out, because those never fail to crack me up. (Seriously, I nearly died reading The Long Haul last year.)
But in an attempt to broaden my horizons or whatever, I decided to pick something less obvious, and after roaming around on the Goodreads’ forums on the topic of the challenge, I saw David Sedaris recommended a few times, with Me Talk Pretty One Day touted as his most hilarious. And indeed, the blurbs all over the cover (and a few pages on the inside) all speak of its “wildly entertaining” value.
After having read it, to that I say, “Maybe?” I can definitely see that Sedaris is a good writer; his prose is loose and easy, with biting observations and clever witticisms, but it’s more melancholy than joyful. That’s not to say I can’t see making light out of a bad situation in the name of (black) comedy (which I do love), but outside of the anecdotes related to family or friends, it was mostly a lot of whining – or at least to me, that’s what it seemed like. But then, a lot of standup comedy tends to revolve around the petty and mundane, and I’ve heard that Sedaris is far better when heard rather than read, so perhaps the printed medium just doesn’t completely suit his style.
I did enjoy the first story about his having to take a speech therapy class, which Sedaris believes was a veiled attempt at squashing out male homosexuality in young boys by targeting their “feminine” speech patterns. His retellings of family history were both interesting and shocking, especially involving his sisters and their terrible treatment by their father. Obviously, Amy Sedaris, who’s now a well-known actress, approved of her brother writing these things (whether or not they’re true), but it’s still a little sad to read.
My favorite section was his friend Alisha and her coworker visiting him in New York and how terrible it turned out to be. (There’s visiting a new place for the first time, and then there’s being a tourist.) I also liked his observations on Americans (though considering I share most of his opinions on that subject, it may just be confirmation bias). That was really the only part I actually laughed out loud at. And then my mood went back to slightly amused, but largely indifferent.
Clearly, Sedaris’s humor works for some people – a lot of people, actually – just not for me. Again, I think I probably would’ve enjoyed it more as an audiobook or some sort of radio routine, which he does do. And this wasn’t his first book, and I knew none of his history before reading this, so perhaps more context would’ve been helped.
Header image: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, published in 2001 by Little, Brown and Company