Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls By David Sedaris, $21
David Sedaris is the funniest writer alive, and I’m his biggest fan. So, yeah, don’t expect much ambivalence in this review. I think of his body of work the same way I think of Cirque shows: Which should I recommend first?
His newest collection, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, is no exception. It’s got everything Sedaris enthusiasts love—essays about the author’s family, essays about learning foreign languages, short satirical pieces like the ones in Barrel Fever—along with stories on European dental care, black market taxidermy shops, gay marriage and kookaburras.
My favorite essay, and I’m not alone here, is “Understanding Understanding Owls,” in which Sedaris visits a shady Parisian taxidermy shop hoping to find a stuffed owl … but ends up ogling a severed human forearm and touching a 400-year-old shrunken Peruvian head. At first he feigns revolt, but soon he admits he liked touching the head: “The taxidermist knew me for less time than it took to wipe my feet on his mat, and, with no effort whatsoever, he looked into my soul and recognized me for the person I really am: the type who’d actually love a Pygmy, and could easily get over the fact that he’d been murdered for sport, thinking, breezily, Well, it was a long time ago.”
Another great thing about this book: the ready-made forensics pieces. In high school, I competed in public speaking/acting competitions called forensics. Many of my competitors performed Sedaris essays, and news of that has reached Sedaris, who has written six monologues specifically for the forensics student. These half-dozen shorties feature over-the-top, melodramatic, ultra-conservative narrators railing against perceived social slights and gay marriage. It’s not hard to imagine how enjoyable it would be to perform these pieces. Guaranteed laughs in every paragraph.
You can’t go wrong with Let’s Explore’s hardcopy version, but Sedaris is one storyteller who’s meant to be heard, so I recommend downloading the audible.com version today. Admit it: You, too, are curious to know what a shrunken head feels like.