Me Talk Pretty One Day Paperback – Jun 5 2001
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David Sedaris became a star autobiographer on public radio, onstage in New York, and on bestseller lists, mostly on the strength of "SantaLand Diaries," a scathing, hilarious account of his stint as a Christmas elf at Macy's. (It's in two separate collections, both worth owning, Barrel Fever and the Christmas-themed Holidays on Ice.) Sedaris's caustic gift has not deserted him in his fourth book, which mines poignant comedy from his peculiar childhood in North Carolina, his bizarre career path, and his move with his lover to France. Though his anarchic inclination to digress is his glory, Sedaris does have a theme in these reminiscences: the inability of humans to communicate. The title is his rendition in transliterated English of how he and his fellow students of French in Paris mangle the Gallic language. In the essay "Jesus Shaves," he and his classmates from many nations try to convey the concept of Easter to a Moroccan Muslim. "It is a party for the little boy of God," says one. "Then he be die one day on two... morsels of... lumber," says another. Sedaris muses on the disputes between his Protestant mother and his father, a Greek Orthodox guy whose Easter fell on a different day. Other essays explicate his deep kinship with his eccentric mom and absurd alienation from his IBM-exec dad: "To me, the greatest mystery of science continues to be that a man could father six children who shared absolutely none of his interests."
Every glimpse we get of Sedaris's family and acquaintances delivers laughs and insights. He thwarts his North Carolina speech therapist ("for whom the word pen had two syllables") by cleverly avoiding all words with s sounds, which reveal the lisp she sought to correct. His midget guitar teacher, Mister Mancini, is unaware that Sedaris doesn't share his obsession with breasts, and sings "Light My Fire" all wrong--"as if he were a Webelo scout demanding a match." As a remarkably unqualified teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago, Sedaris had his class watch soap operas and assign "guessays" on what would happen in the next day's episode.
It all adds up to the most distinctively skewed autobiography since Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia. The only possible reason not to read this book is if you'd rather hear the author's intrinsically funny speaking voice narrating his story. In that case, get Me Talk Pretty One Day on audio. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Sedaris is Garrison Keillor's evil twin: like the Minnesota humorist, Sedaris (Naked) focuses on the icy patches that mar life's sidewalk, though the ice in his work is much more slippery and the falls much more spectacularly funny than in Keillor's. Many of the 27 short essays collected here (which appeared originally in the New Yorker, Esquire and elsewhere) deal with his father, Lou, to whom the book is dedicated. Lou is a micromanager who tries to get his uninterested children to form a jazz combo and, when that fails, insists on boosting David's career as a performance artist by heckling him from the audience. Sedaris suggests that his father's punishment for being overly involved in his kids' artistic lives is David's brother Paul, otherwise known as "The Rooster," a half-literate miscreant whose language is outrageously profane. Sedaris also writes here about the time he spent in France and the difficulty of learning another language. After several extended stays in a little Norman village and in Paris, Sedaris had progressed, he observes, "from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. 'Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window." But in English, Sedaris is nothing if not nimble: in one essay he goes from his cat's cremation to his mother's in a way that somehow manages to remain reverent to both of the departed. "Reliable sources" have told Sedaris that he has "tended to exhaust people," and true to form, he will exhaust readers of this new book, tooDwith helpless laughter. 16-city author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Part One of this book is a collection of autobiographical essays from various times in his life, including a hysterical essay about teaching a writing class entitled "The Learning Curve," as well as the essay entitled "The Youth in Asia" about his family's pets, which is all at once laugh-out-loud funny, and oddly touching and thought-provoking. This is a pattern one will find in Sedaris's writing. He falls in the same category as Kurt Vonnegut was labeled: a Zany satirist with a heart. And indeed, he has a heart, strange and twisted, but still lovable. Through his misadventures, tales of a grandmother who he couldn't stand and being glad of her passing, and tales of weeping at the death of a cat ("she was never really fond of the outdoors, so I sprinkled her ashes on the carpet and vacuumed them up,") we gain a particular insight into our own social dysfunctionalities while laughing at another person's.
Part Deux (part TWO, for those of you less inclined towards the French language) is about Sedaris's (mis?)adventures in France with his partner. Sedaris takes a stab at religion, the Easter Bunny and French Easter traditions all in one swipe in the essay "Jesus Shaves," while providing a touching and serious explanation of the importance of faith.Read more ›
Davis Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day combines two of the world's greatest cities- New York and Paris- with humor, all in one book that is incredibly hard to put down. The book is comprised of a series of humorous personal experience pieces, the first half of which take place in Sedaris' native New York City and the second half of which take place in Paris, where he moves to temporarily with his boyfriend Hugh.
The first essay in Me Talk Pretty One Day sets the fast and funny pace continued throughout the rest of the book. It also sets the theme of "culture shock" in one's own county, because Sedaris comments on many experiences in his youth that made him feel alienated from other people in his own environment. In it, Sedaris discusses the speech impediment (aka "lisp") that he had as a child and still has to this day. The efforts of his speech teacher to correct the lisp were never successful, but Sedaris' descriptions of them are hilarious. He writes about the kids who were in his speech therapy class, saying, "None of the speech therapy students were girls. They were all boys like me who kept movie star scrapbooks and made their own curtains... 'One of these days I'm going to have to hang a sign on that door,' [my speech teacher] used to say. She was probably thinking along the lines of SPEECH THERAPY LAB, though a more appropriate marker would have read FUTURE HOMOSEXUALS OF AMERICA".Read more ›
"Me Talk Pretty One Day" is humorous, but not "laugh-out-loud funny."
The majority of problems are with the stories dealing with his family. His family members are indeed quirky, but the stories he tells are you-had-to-be-there stories. I think my siblings and parents are hilarious too, but I'm humble enough to realize that anyone who didn't grow up in our household does not find our childhood anecdotes nearly as amusing as those of us who were there.
This book improves during part "deux," wherein Sedaris sticks for the most part to describing his experiences as an American living in France. It is in these stories/essays that Sedaris's true gift shines through: he has quite a talent for pointing out the absurd in society. Yet, entertaining as they were, not even these stories are ones I would consider "laugh-out-loud funny." I suppose I would have liked this book better had the blurbs from reviews featured on the cover not oversold Sedaris's comedic talents.
All in all, this book is entertaining when Sedaris is shining a light on society's foibles. When he turns that light on himself and his own neuroses, things begin to wear thin; and when he begins to speak of his family, the book is unremarkable at best, and, more often than not, completely unentertaining.
Again, I probably would have liked it better had my expectations not been set so high.
"River Teeth" by David James Duncan is in this same vein, but much, much better.
If you just want to laugh, anything by Dave Barry is sure to hit the spot.
Most recent customer reviews
One of my all time favourite books, very funny.
It is a great read if you don't have the time or energy to immerse yourself into a long deep novel. Read more
David Sedaris is a great writer. Easy read, charming and delightfully funny.Published 11 months ago by VeggiesNotWedgies
Laugh outloud funny. Different, original, hilarious.Published 19 months ago by Mom of a special needs' superhero
This was just a random collection of the author's personal stories and thoughts. I felt like I was reading his diary. Some parts made me laugh, but overall I just don't get it. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Andrew