Book Club: ‘Calypso’ by David Sedaris will have you laughing before you realize you’re reading
Editor’s note: This monthly-ish column by the Vail Daily’s entertainment editor will discuss what she’s reading currently and how it affects her life.
A few weeks ago, I was perusing the shelves at The Bookworm of Edwards. I saw David Sedaris’ 2018 book, “Calypso” on the best-sellers shelf and bought it. I even asked one of the attendants if they had other titles by him. If they did, I would have bought more.
“Calypso” is the fastest I’ve read a book since my first time flipping the pages through “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” and that was 12 years ago. I was 10 years old (yes, I know everyone older than me is gaping at my youth).
David Sedaris, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of cackling devilishly at his work, is one of America’s pre-eminent contemporary humor writers. He often finds subject matter in his upbringing in Raleigh, North Carolina, his large and dysfunctional family and his ex-patriot life in Europe with his longtime boyfriend, Hugh.
He first got his break in public life when he met NPR host Ira Glass in a Chicago club. In 1992, Sedaris read from his diary on NPR’s “The Wild Room,” and built on his success. He’s published many books since then, as well as essays in publications like The New Yorker and Esquire. His sister is actress Amy Sedaris, the Second City alum whom “BoJack Horseman” fans will recognize as the voice of Princess Carolyn. The pair have collaborated on numerous projects, and the author gave a talk in Breckenridge last month.
Back to speed. For reference: It took me four sessions to get through the 300-ish pages in “Calypso;” when I was 10, it took me 3 days of practically non-stop reading to get through the 700 plus pages in the final Harry Potter book. For a Russian Literature class in college, I read “Anna Karenina” in about a month, and that was fast, but nowhere near as fast as “Calypso.”
Sedaris, and I hate this cliché in the amateur book review lexicon, just draws you in. Somehow, you’re the one bickering with Hugh in the Sea Section, a.k.a the Sedaris family beach house on Emerald Isle. At the same time, you’re detached enough to see the universal reality of the author’s cultural commentary, which in the case of “Calypso,” shows the author grappling with his own mortality in middle age through a series of his trademark personal essays.
A few other, less cutesy reasons why “Calypso” went by so quickly for me probably had at least a little to do with the fact that Sedaris’ writing is very conversational. It’s very easy to get through pages at a time without even noticing, “hey, I’m actually reading.” I also read and write for a living, so for better or for worse, I’ve learned how to do those things fairly quickly.
I first became familiar with Sedaris via The New Yorker, which I’ve written about in this column before and I’m sure on second reference will have even more people rolling their eyes than it did the first time. I read his essays commuting on the Q train in New York. Fun fact: exactly 65% of subway riders have a crinkled copy of the magazine with them, my well-vetted research indicates that less than 10% of those people actually read it.
Sometimes I’d have to force myself not audibly giggle, or even smile, at his incisive, self-deprecating articles when I read them on the train. After all, the two Ultimate Transgressions Against Society in the city are 1) appearing happy for no reason and 2) disrupting others’ obvious displeasure. I resolved to actually buy one of his books one day. I stared at them on the shelves in the Union Square Barnes & Noble, convincing myself that my bank account, at the time very reflective of my unpaid internship, would be upset with me if brought anything up to the counter. I’m glad I have a job now that affords me enough money to buy books.
Some parting notes:
If you work at the Bookworm and you’re reading this: get more Sedaris.
If your middle name, like what’s for sure printed on my government-issued birth certificate, is Desensitizes Personal And Societal Problems With Off-beat Humor: read more Sedaris.
Casey Russell is the arts and entertainment editor of the Vail Daily, and in case you were curious for some reason, her real government-recognized middle name is Marie. You can reach her at 970-748-2904 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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