Prior to reading this book, I knew absolutely nothing about David Sedaris, or even anything about what he wrote: not even the genre. Now having finished it, I feel as though I not only understand his writing style, but I have a strong grasp of who he is as a person; or at least, who he likes to portray himself as in his writing.
I’d say the book is a nice example of life writing – it is autobiographical, but I certainly wouldn’t call it an autobiography. It’s essentially a collection of anecdotes from his life, without much of an overall structure, other than half of it being based on his life in America, then the second half being based on his life after moving to France.
What’s appealing to me, as a writer, is that Sedaris’s life isn’t particularly extraordinary (other than moving from the US to France.) Generally, he’s had the same sort of experiences which many of us have had, but what makes it enjoyable to read is his strong writing voice. He’s a good writer and he’s funny. That fact that this alone was enough for him to fill a book is inspiring to me.
While I enjoyed the half about his life in America, I do think it picked up significantly when he moved to France. Reading about the way that Americans would speak English in front of him assuming he didn’t understand was hilarious. I laughed out loud several times. He often writes about hating people he doesn’t know for small (and sometimes justified) reasons and it amuses me to no end – some of it’s ridiculously petty and I love it.
I must warn you though, for all the laughs it contains, it can be very bleak. There’s a chapter about euthanising pets and a chapter about a woman who nearly died in an amusement park accident – though he keeps up his comedic tone, I was left feeling quite depressed after each of these chapters. I wish he could have written more about genuine joy in his life, because, without that, it can feel a bit too much – but I suppose sincere happiness may not have been compatible with the tone he was going for.
Overall, an interesting read which gives us a good overview of the author’s life. It’s very relatable at times, so I feel like a lot of people will get something out of it – if you’re after some comedic, slice of life reading, then I recommend it.