For many of us, a hard day at school or work warrants an hour or two in front of the TV sinking into our favorite sitcoms. Nothing inspires relaxation like That 70’s Show, How I Met Your Mother, or The Big Bang Theory. Maybe you prefer old-school options like Seinfeld, I Love Lucy, and Saturday Night Live, but whatever your taste it’s likely that comedy’s written form isn’t your first choice. It wasn’t mine either, but after reading Me Talk Pretty One Day, I’m considering a more frequent change of scenery. David Sedaris’s autobiographical narration describes his life and childhood with his eccentric family who rival the Bluths from Arrested Development in dysfunction and individual quirks, detailed by a razor-sharp wit reminiscent of facetious comedians like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.
Sedaris got his start in 1995 as a frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s This American Life, succeeding the publication of his first collection of stories, Barrel Fever, in ’94. Me Talk Pretty One Day was published in 2000, which won a Thurber Prize for American Humor, followed by Time Magazine granting Sedaris the title of “Humorist of the Year”. Since then, he’s written several works with auspicious titles like Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.
If it’s your first time reading comedy, be aware that it takes some time getting used to.
The common misconception is that anything written on paper is doomed to be serious and grim – as it often is – but you must rid yourself of that paradigm if you want to be able to really enjoy a work of this caliber. You have to be pretty comfortable with the format in order to be able to laugh at the specific arrangement of a few words on a page, so we suggest that you read a few paragraphs for practice, and allow yourself a nice, vocal reaction to a joke before sitting down to tackle the whole thing. Soon you’ll find yourself cackling at every well-chosen adjective and analogy because he really is that good. The best part: no commercials.
The book begins with an amusing yet touching anecdote of Sedaris’s struggles with a seemingly evil school speech therapist, establishing the author as both a master of wit and empathy.
Later in the novel, I remember being especially amused by Sedaris’s description of his struggles with the French language after having moved to Paris with his boyfriend. In one particularly tickling instance, Sedaris buys a Walkman with the initial intention of listening to American books on tape:
“Merle Haggard’s My House of Memories, the diaries of Alan Bennett, Treasure Island; if a person who constantly reads is labeled a bookworm, then I was quickly becoming what might be called a tapeworm.” - Ha!
When his sister Amy sends him a package containing a walking tour of Paris and a copy of Pocket Medical French, the fun only continues.
“I followed my walking tour to Notre Dame, where, bored with a lecture on the history of the flying buttress, I switched tapes and came to see Paris through the jaundiced eyes of the pocket medical guide… I was quickly able to learn such sparkling conversational icebreakers as “Remove your dentures and all of your jewelry” and “You now need to deliver the afterbirth.”
This is an irresistibly hilarious collection of stories and spring break has provided the perfect opportunity for you to embark on exploring them. We can’t praise it enough and strongly suggest you give this one a go. Me Talk Pretty One Day is certifiably Bookworm approved.