Sunday, February 11, 2007

Book Review: Me Talk Pretty One Day

My non-fiction kick continues. I have always heard good things about David Sedaris, but had never read one of his books before. Me Talk Pretty One Day is a collection of humorous anecdotes from the author’s life, and the casual, conversational writing style make it feel more like a series of articles or long blog post (albeit a very well-written blog without any pictures of cats or babies) than a book. It’s a quick and highly entertaining read. I liked the chapter in which Sedaris joins a crew of movers in NYC that is composed of a schizophrenic Russian, a paroled murderer, and is led by a communist boss, who tells his new employee “Sure, I might happen to own the truck, but that doesn't make me any more valuable than the next guy. If I'm better than you, it's only because I'm Irish.”

However, the best section of the book and the inspiration for the title, details Sedaris’ attempts at learning to speak French while living in Paris. Anyone who has suffered the frustrations of learning a foreign language can easily relate. The class is discussing Easter traditions, and a Muslim student from Morocco announces that she doesn’t know what Easter is. The teacher asks the class to explain. Because no one knows the French words for crucifixion and resurrection, they tell her things like “the son of your father died on two morsels of wood.” Her confusion grows when she learns that, in addition to the whole death thing, a rabbit brings chocolate eggs. The author himself is stunned to discover than in France, instead of the Easter bunny, a bell flies in from Rome to deliver the chocolates.

Overall, I don’t think Sedaris’ life is that much funnier than anyone else’s, he is just more astute at noticing the everyday absurdities and portraying them in a comical light. For example, yesterday, my roommate and I were running some errands in Framingham and stopped by my parents’ house. “Hey, there’s a Busch Light can in your front yard,” she observes. “Oh, that’s where my dad lines up the recycling and sometimes he misses a can or two,” I explain. We open the door, and are immediately greeted by the family dog, who is wearing one of those enormous conehead collars and keeps slamming into furniture. It’s late afternoon, but my mother is still in her pajamas. I offer my roommate a snack, and, naturally, the first thing I pull out of the fridge is covered in mold. So yes, upon closer examination, my family, and I suppose all families, are equally ridiculous to the Sedarises, which likely explains the popularity of his writing.

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