Everything’s a Little Mad Here

Sara Wasdahl, age 17

Perceptive and cynical, filled with droll observations and wry humor, “Me Talk Pretty One Day” is a sharp and witty collection of essays from American humorist David Sedaris.

Sedaris had his major break as an essayist with his 1992 piece “Santaland Diaries,” which he read on National Public Radio to great acclaim. In his fourth collection of personal essays since, Sedaris has lost none of his characteristic sarcasm and wit. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” is a collection of seemingly dry experiences from the author’s life: his parents get a dog, he eats at an expensive restaurant with his boyfriend, and he tries to learn French by listening to a pocket medical dictionary on tape. Through these seemingly dry details, however, Sedaris skillfully calls attention to the absurdity in daily life. Why are people so hopelessly devoted to their pets? Why does he pay exorbitant amounts of money to eat raw fish in a bath of chocolate sauce? Why are French nouns sexualized?

David Sedaris grew up the second of six children in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina. In his twenties, he toyed with avant-garde visual and performance art, before becoming an (unqualified) writing teacher, a personal assistant, and then a furniture mover. He eventually ended up in France with his boyfriend, Hugh, and many of the essays in this collection center on his cultural observations and his brave attempts to learn French.

The author makes perceptive and often comic observations, using anecdotes in place of flowery adjectives to make for precise and unique commentary. His approach is mainly observational and descriptive: rather than inflicting external meaning on his subject matter, he lets humor and irony speak for itself as he carefully considers each topic. “There are cats that weigh more than my IQ score,” he says about taking a Mensa qualification test in the essay “Smart Guy.” “Were my number translated into dollars, it would buy you about three buckets of fried chicken … Either you reason things or you don’t. Those who do have high IQs. Those who don’t reach for the mayonnaise when they can’t find the insect repellent.”

This is not a traditional memoir in that Sedaris does not try to self-reflect, or paint a perfect portrait of himself. Instead, this memoir allows us to see snapshots of the cynical, creative, perceptive, self-deprecating and downright hilarious person David Sedaris is.

“Me Talk Pretty One Day” is a book that urges us to laugh at the absurdity of our behaviors and the randomness of our cultural customs. It reminds us that nothing in life is too sacred to be ruthlessly mocked.