Review: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (& Giveaway)

23rd April 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review.

I am an unabashed fan of David Sedaris and have been, from the first time I cracked open Naked on an airplane and embarrassed my sister by laughing out loud for the greater majority of the flight. Since my Sedaris reading was all pre-blog, I haven’t had an opportunity to share my love until today*. When I read that his latest book would come out this week, I decided I would gift it to myself for my birthday. Then, lo and behold, this book (actually two copies) appeared on my doorstep last month. I may have been a little excited, considering I’d just driven home from Dallas (a five-hour drive) but plopped down and read this in one sitting.

After the disappointment of When You Are Engulfed in Flames, I was nervous about Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. I needn’t have been. One of the first stories describes how Sedaris’s father would drop trou each evening, remaining all business up top but sporting his undies for all and sundry to see, regardless of who or what was about. He talks about his parents, and their parenting methods, comparing them to modern parents: “I don’t know how these couples do it, spend hours each night tucking their kids in, reading them books … then rereading them if the child so orders. In my house, our parents put us to bed with two simple words: “Shut up.” That was always the last thing we heard before our lights were turned off. Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it, because our parents recognized it for what it was: crap. They did not live in a child’s house, we lived in theirs.” Harsh as it sounds, Sedaris successfully points out the pretty massive changes in our societal view and treatment of children now as compared to many of our own childhoods.

Along with his typical essays are short, fictitious monologues (which I could have done without), a form he says he’s learned from teens who perform “Forensics” for judges, and Sedaris is sharp tongued in the monologues, pointing out the absurdity of all of us – a man who justifies murder because of gay marriage, a woman writing to berate her sister for a cheap wedding gift after she’s stolen the sister’s intended – but he’s just as pointedly critical of himself. He discusses his compulsive diary writing: “I tried rereading it recently and came away wondering, Who is this exhausting drug addict? I wanted to deny him, but that’s the terrible power of a diary: it not only calls forth the person you used to be but rubs your nose in him, reminding you that not all change is evolutionary. More often than not, you didn’t learn from your mistakes…”

Although not as packed with laughs as perhaps Naked or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Sedaris’s collection reflects a maturing essayist and humorist. Yet even with the moments of sincerity and sobering self examination, Let’s Explore Diabetes is the bold, funny, and mildly offensive return to the Sedaris for which most have long waited.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Which I’ll do in this review but also as I hand out copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day for World Book Night. Yippee!

  • I’m not a Sedaris newbie, but I haven’t read nearly as much of him as I should. This one sounds interesting to me. Especially since I’m getting vague memories of my own childhood based on some of the essays you point out! (Therefore, this may or may not send me into therapy.)

  • Ohhhh this was my “Waiting On” Wednesday pick last week. I’m so excited you’re hosting a giveaway! I love Sedaris, no definitely not a newbie. But like Jen, I haven’t read everything by him (yet!).

  • I love Sedrais. He makes me feel like he can relate.

  • I have not read anything by Sedaris. I started to read one of his books, but I didn’t finish it. I need to give him another try.

  • Julianne – Outlandish Lit

    I’ve never actually read anything by Sedaris, but I’ve heard him read before! Really funny.

  • Julie

    Thanks for doing the giveaway!

    • Julie

      I’ve read one other of his books, and it was great!

  • Riv

    I am a Sedaris newbie, but I don’t intend to stay one forever.

  • Lucy’s Football

    Ooh, I meant to remind myself to read this a while back, and it completely left my mind. Too many things in there. Thank you for the reminder! Adding to the list now!

  • Laura

    Have so much fun book giving. I am a big Sedaris fan as well, although my favorite is listening to them on audio.

  • This is on my wish list! Hope you enjoyed World Book Night.

  • I am soooo looking forward to reading this.

  • (And no, I’m not a newbie. I’ve read two or three of his books and loved them all.)

  • I’ve read a few of his books and he never fails to crack me up 😉 Thanks for the giveaway!

  • I’ve never read his books and while I don’t think I’ll introduce myself to him with this one, it does sound entertaining. Especially the comments on his own diary – I read one of mine the other day and wondered why the hell people let me exist as such a self involved teenager.

  • Tiffany

    I love the quote you provided about the differences between modern and parents of our generation! I have never read any of this guy’s books, but now I definitely want to. 🙂

  • I’m definitely not a Sedaris newbie. I love so many of his books (although I totally agree with you on When You are Engulfed in Flames). Me Talk Pretty One Day is still one of my very favorite books. It was one of those books that made me look like a crazy person in public because I couldn’t help but to laugh out loud while reading! I’m glad to hear that you liked his latest so much!

  • Cee

    I am not a Sedaris newbie. I adore his humor. Me Talk Pretty One Day is one of my favorites. His books never fail to make me laugh.

  • Wendy

    I am a big fan of of David Sedaris. Naked cracked me up. I’m hoping this book does it too!

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