This is a collection of CNF (Creative non-fiction) which is both funny and heartwarming. I was introduced to David Sedaris after reading The New Yorker and fell in love with his genuine personality and humour. You can read a sample here, Stepping Out, about his obsession with Fitbit.
He has no qualms about making fun of himself. He narrates funny stories, from his short stature to his obsession with Fitbit. He is honest writing about his family too as we learn about his childhood, with a father who made empty promises (as with many fathers), his alcoholic mother, and his five siblings. The close relationship they share as they now approach middle-age is enviable, even as he cannot fathom how his youngest sister could commit suicide near her 50th birthday.
He writes endearingly about Hugh, his partner, as they settle into domestic bliss like any heterosexual couples. The only reference to any sexual intimacy between the two is how he tells Hugh, who won’t let the author into the bathroom when he is peeing, ‘I had that in my mouth ten minutes ago and now it’s a private part?’ In a generous gesture, he tells Huge to find himself a new boyfriend after he is gone, even suggesting a name and when Huge protests about that man, the author say, ‘but he is good looking,’ to which Huge responds, ‘What do I want with a good-looking boyfriend?’
Another reason I like him is how we share a common trait – we pick trash as we walk – much of his trash is similar to what I pick in Singapore, potato chip bags, cans, bottles, although he has the greasy sheets of paper fish-and-chips come wrapped in, wheres mine is the styrofoam boxes for economic rice. He writes, you can tell where my territory ends and the rest of England begins. It’s like going from the Rose Garden in Sissinghurst to Fukushima after the tsunami. I think the littering problem there is more severe than ours.
He is honest about his shortcomings. Huge asks him, ‘Why can’t you let people change?’ and ‘Why do you choose to remember the negative rather than the positive?’ which he insists, ‘I don’t,’ as he is thinking at the same time, that, I will never forget you giving me such a hard time over this.
Every chapter is so funny but the one which I can empathize with most is the chapter where he had a stomach virus and worried about shitting in his pants because he once witnessed on separate occasions an old man and another lady who had done it on a plane. I once traveled in a car for two hours in Ethiopia with a near bursting rectum and had wondered what I would do, would I just let go in the car when I ran out of inner energy to hold my abdomen taut, or if it is better to do it in the bush where a topless tribal man in skirt with an AK47 slung across his body might just appear in front of me.
To read this book is to see visions of myself and learning to laugh at myself.