October 12, 2010

Heads or Tails: Sedaris's New Book Is a Win

By Sherri Breitigan, Contributing Writer

David Sedaris’s latest book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, is a departure from his normal short story model in the sense that the characters are animals instead of the usual cynical and misguided humans. This collection includes illustrations by Ian Falconer, author and illustrator of a bestselling children’s series and costume designer extraordinaire. Don’t expect your typical children’s illustrations, though, you’re more likely to gather stares from nosy passerby as you flip open to a page that features the back end of a hippo, or a smiling lamb and conniving crow.

If you are familiar with Sedaris, you will find that while the cast of this book is new, his uncanny ability to make the ordinary events and moments of life hilarious and poignant is still there. However, there is an added shade of disturbia to some of the stories, which will delight loyal fans, but maybe disarm a Sedaris virgin. You may be better off starting with Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim or When You are Engulfed in Flames to wade in the waters before taking this on.

Regardless of your previous experience, I can guarantee that you will find yourself simultaneously laughing and gasping in shock as you read about a cuckholded Irish setter or a reconciled cat in the prison AA program. Sedaris balances charm and crudeness in an unexpected setting to great success as we are both amused and alarmed by the recognition of human qualities in animals. I bought tickets for a David Sedaris reading in Charlotte in a few weeks, and I have to say I’m looking forward to hearing the grown-up version of animal tales.

The beauty of the short story is that you can easily fit it into a busy life or commute-you don’t have to worry about keeping up with the plot of Anna Karenina after you’ve put it down for two weeks. And overall, Sedaris is just fun to read, especially if you have a phobia of books brought on by your stingy high school English teacher.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is recommended for:
  • Public commutes. The stories will distract you from the image of the token homeless person, yes doing that, on the bus or subway.
  • Post-break up slumps. It’s less calories than Rocky Road.
Not recommended for:
  • PETA rallies
  • 4th grade Show and Tell
  • Naive optimists
  • Your Aunt Susan