I hadn’t come across David Sedaris before, have you? I have seen this book mentioned everywhere this summer and so, of course, it moved to my to be read pile. Sitting here during the week I found myself really struggling with my latest read, it had taken me 3 days to read 100 pages which is unheard of. I felt I needed to take a break from the book and Calypso was close to hand. I thought it was a lot of short stories or essays so felt it might be the perfect alternative to the treacle walking novel I was struggling with.
The book contains themed chapters and is auto biographical. David is part of a large family, 6 children including him. His mother died in her early 60’s and David himself is now in his 50’s. He has lived with his partner Hugh for 30 years and their current home is in West Sussex though David was born in America and his family remain there. During the course of this book David buys his family a holiday home and spends time with them at the beach.
Through the course of the book David speaks of being particularly ill on a book tour, the relationship he develops with a fox in his garden in Sussex, the relationship he has with his 92 year old father, the suicide of his younger sister Tiffany and the need he has to feed a wild snapper turtle, near his holiday home, a benign tumour he has cut off by a nurse he meets in a book signing queue during a book tour. David speaks honestly about his relationships with his partner and family and this definitely isn’t a fairy tale. David doesn’t justify his behaviour or try to explain it. He just plainly tells what happened. Sometimes the events are difficult. The story of Tiffany, his sister who killed herself, is tragic but he is quite matter of fact about it. I found it interesting how he didn’t seek my sympathy but just showed that we all live a life filled with difficult relationships and that we should make peace with them and not change the story. When a psychic speaks with his sister about the death of Tiffany she says that Tiffany has done some work on herself on the other side and realised that she doesn’t want to be angry with him and hopes that they can move past what happened. He refuses to accept that this is true. I respect that. Many people would want to feel forgiven.
I found David’s description of his relationship with Hugh quite funny and I have to say I think I might be a bit more like Hugh! David is obsessed with shopping and buys the strangest clothes and would rather be watching tv than outside in Hawaii. Hugh sarcastically challenges him frequently. When David’s accountant tells him that the best thing they can do is to marry for financial reasons he proposes several times to Hugh despite the fact that both of them have always felt strongly opposed to the need to do it. Despite being really emotional about the legalisation of gay marriage in America the pair don’t really seem to want to progress down this path.
I loved the honesty of this book and found it fascinating and strange. Some of the stories are just bizarre. The need to feed the tumour to a turtle?! But overall I appreciated the honesty. A few years ago when I thought I was the only person who was central to a family of issues this book would have really helped to realise that family drama is so normal. I really appreciated the simple presentation of these stories, enjoyed how there was a point to them and liked the sarcastic and contradictory opinions. I think I might be seeking out a bit more of David Sedaris’ work.