Tu­mour hu­mour

David Sedaris’s Ca­lypso is a de­light­fully peppy jour­ney into mid­dle age

Esquire (UK) - - Culture -

Last year, David Sedaris, the pre-em­i­nent Amer­i­can hu­mourist who reg­u­larly sells out con­cert halls on both sides of the At­lantic, re­leased a col­lec­tion of di­aries that, among other things, re­called his way­ward youth spent hitch­hik­ing, tak­ing crys­tal meth and writ­ing — in his own words — reams of “com­plete bull­shit”. For fans ac­cus­tomed to waspish anec­dotes about rude First Class air­line pas­sen­gers, Theft

by Find­ing was some­thing of a de­par­ture. But they’ll be re­lieved to dis­cover that with his new col­lec­tion Ca­lypso, Sedaris is firmly back on his for­mer stomp­ing ground.

Death, wealth and mid­dle age are once again his cen­tral pre­oc­cu­pa­tions in these 21 typ­i­cally arch es­says. Sedaris’s sub­jects range from clothes shop­ping in Ja­pan and adopt­ing stray an­i­mals from his back gar­den, to a piece on overused phrases in the Amer­i­can ser­vice in­dus­try that, by rights, should feel like tired stand-up ter­ri­tory but some­how, in his hands, ends up snort-level funny.

It’s not all Sun­day pa­per colum­nist stuff, though. Loosely ty­ing the book to­gether is the sui­cide of the youngest of Sedaris’s sis­ters, some­thing he han­dles with grace and re­straint. The story that ad­dresses the af­ter­math of this tragedy most di­rectly, “A House Di­vided”, sees what is left of his ag­ing and ec­cen­tric fam­ily gather at a sea­side re­treat he has bought for them all and ends, poignantly, with Sedaris spot­ting a dis­tant stranger on the sands and won­der­ing if they have “looked up into our gaily lit win­dows and re­sented us, won­der­ing, as we of­ten did our­selves these days, what we had done to de­serve all this.”

In­evitably, not ev­ery es­say is as strong. Not even a sto­ry­teller of Sedaris’s gifts can make end­less doc­tor’s vis­its or the re­moval of a tu­mour par­tic­u­larly funny or in­ter­est­ing. But for the most part, Ca­lypso is an­other tri­umph from the din­ner-ta­ble racon­teur we all wish we could be, a writer whose light­ness of touch makes you con­front the hard­est of truths — and laugh out loud. Ca­lypso is pub­lished on 5 July (Lit­tle, Brown)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.