Friday, August 15, 2014

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day
by David Sedaris
2000
*****
5 Stars - here's a guy who knows how to use the English language
ALR Green - one chapter dealing with family pets, some treated better than others, but none seem to suffer


I doubt I'm the only person who, when first confronted by the acronym LOL, assumed that it meant Lots of Love. Thus my freak out when I started receiving emails from an old high school friend who peppered his text with lots of LOLs, presumably to indicate the benign nature of his contact, but which had the opposite effect of causing me to freak just a little bit.

I bring this up because several reviews and comments about this book characterized it as a LOL read. Now, it is rare that I LOL while watching a movie or reading or listening to a story, even when I am amused. That's just my nature. 

This, however, was not a LOL book (silent or otherwise), but it was darn good.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is a series of essays and observations about life, David Sedaris's life. While I suppose that the descriptions of wit and comedy are based on disbelief or shock at how his mind works, for me, I devoured this book primarily because the author reflected so much of my inner dialog.

What I share with Mr. Sedaris (at least from his writing) is a tendency to observe situations without prejudice and to write my own descriptions in my head which know no bounds regarding eloquence or extreme comparisons.

Mr. Sedaris provides us with a series of short stories taken from rather random parts of his life. So we have some childhood stories, young adult stories, and, in the second half of the book, stories about his experiences as an American living in France. The title is derived from his attempts to learn French as an adult. It's not easy and one is often resigned to sounding like an idiot as people babble and shake their heads.

His pacing and turn of phrase is delightful, but it is difficult to find short passages that would be representative out of context. Here's one paragraph where he describes his dining experiences in France (and I have to say he's summed up much of what I have thought about "upscale" dining in the USA).

When the waiter brings our entrees, I have no idea which plate might be mine. In yesterday's restaurants it was possible both to visualize and to recognize your meal. There were always subtle differences, but for the most part, a lamb chop tended to maintain its basic shape. That is to say that it looked choplike. It had a handle made of bone and a teardrop of meat hugged by a thin rind of fat. Apparently, though, that was too predictable. Order the modern lamb chop, and it's likely to look no different than your companion's order of shackled pompano. The current food is always arranged into a senseless, vertical tower. No longer content to recline, it now reaches for the sky, much like the high-rise buildings lining our city streets. It's as if the plates were valuable parcels of land and the chef had purchased a small lot and unlimited air rights. Hugh's saffron linguine resembles a miniature turban, topped with architectural spires of shrimp. It stands there in the center while the rest of the vast, empty plate looks as though it's been leased out as a possible parking lot. I had ordered steak, which, bowing to the same minimalist fashion, is served without the bone, the thin slices of beef stacked to resemble a funeral pyre. The potatoes I'd been expecting have apparently either been clarified to an essence or were used to stoke the grill.

Now some reviewers of the book put Mr. Sedaris's family and experiences in the not quite average category. Seriously? Because while his stories do not exactly mirror my own life in detail, the overall abundance of things inexplicable and confusing is right there for me. 

I put this book in my queue after hearing an interview with Mr. Sedaris on my local NPR station. He sounded like an interesting guy. He even shared his impression of Billy Holiday singing the Oscar Mayer song. Don't tell me you don't do stuff like that when nobody is listening. If you don't, you aren't taking full advantage of life.

1 comment:

  1. A real slice of life by someone who is a master of the English language? Sounds wonderful.

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