Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

I am an unabashed David Sedaris fan. He knows what he’s good at and does it well, and although he’s often criticized within the literary community for passing off what is clearly humor writing as nonfiction/memoir (which I agree with), I think that he’s one of the funniest writers out there, and I never fail to be amused by him. I’ve read most of his books and many of the essays he’s published in magazines like The New Yorker, and I find that he really excels at balancing poignancy and hilarity– there’s always a heart and a sense of reality in all that he writes.

If you’ve read anything else by Sedaris, you’ll know what to expect with this collection–a series of essays on current events, his childhood, his travels abroad, and his crazy family, all infused with his signature deprecating, deadpan humor. He mostly delivers, and this collection is reliably entertaining, although I felt like it didn’t quite live up to the non-stop hilarity of some of his previous collections. Contributing to this might have been the fact that, as this collection was published five years after his last book, it seemed like a lot of the pieces had appeared elsewhere before being included, so I felt like I’d read most of them (and they happened to be some of the best ones). I also wasn’t a fan of the short stories interspersed throughout, which I didn’t think were that interesting or funny, and seemed really out of place.

Collections like Me Talk Pretty One Day had me crying of laughter from start to finish, and this one seemed a bit more cynical and snarky, and slightly less funny. It was still good, don’t get me wrong, and if you’re a Sedaris fan it’s absolutely worth picking up, as some of the essays are true gems. I loved “Understanding Understanding Owls” and “Loggerheads,” among many others. But it’s definitely not the place to start in his body of work.


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