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The examined life...
on 2 May 2017
This is a review of the 2013 edition of the fourth book of essays by American humorist David Sedaris, originally published in 2000.
It comprises a series of short, drily comic observations about his life and family, including his retired IBM engineer father, his foul-mouthed little brother, and his actress sister, Amy. The book is split into two sections, the first set largely in America, and the second focusing on a more settled life, following a move to France with his partner.
Though I was familiar with Sedaris' insouciantly camp tone of voice from his appearances on BBC radio, his past as a drug-addict, alcoholic and virtual down-and-out was unknown to me. He treats his self-degradation with as much waspish wit as he does his adventures on public transport, visiting the cinema, or, in a stand-out chapter, as a diner in fine restaurants (the kind whose menu includes "knuckle of flash-seared crappie served with a collar of chided ginger"). I could have done without the ruminations on the unflushable contents of a friend's toilet, however.
The writing is extremely witty, its focus on the inconsequential masking a deep passion for self-examination. There is a strange profundity in its very triviality.
There isn't a great deal of warmth or wisdom here, but it's an excellent read.