Meh. I bought Me Talk Pretty One Day* because I had heard wonderful things about David Sedaris’ previous work, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. The latter, published in 2013, was hot—it stood at the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. The former, published in 2000, was not (in my humble opinion). Truthfully, I had no idea that Sedaris is a humorist; I thought that Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls was genuinely about owl diabetes. Healthcare is confusing, but I figured that owls can have diabetes because they have insulin, which I discerned after a simple Google search—“do owls have insulin?” Spoiler alert: they do.
You can imagine my surprise when I started reading and realized that Me Talk Pretty One Day is a collection of comedic essays. This realization was further delayed by the fact that the essays are not very funny.
I love collective works (like George Saunders’ Tenth of December and The Best American Short Stories 2013) because they’re easy and fun to navigate. I can finish a short story in one sitting and let that simmer in me for a while before I move on to the next, which is a totally different user-experience than if I was dealing with a novel in its entirety.
Unfortunately, the bite-sized offerings of Sedaris produce little more than pity laughs. He’s the guy that gets you a notch before laugh-climax but can’t go all the way. I do an inner chuckle, but I recognize it as a cheap joke. Obviously, not everything is going to land, but out of a whole book, I expect at least one LOL.
Sedaris’ life in general is interesting enough to wield comedic potential. He went through a period of methamphetamine addiction, served in a series of jobs that he was highly unqualified for, and moved to France largely unprepared. I found myself more interested in the plot than his attempt at witticism. The truth of the matter is that there are much funnier people out there begging you to read their book. I’m reluctant to throw out a number, because my sense of humor might be different than yours, but I suppose you came here for a reason. Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day receives two out of five camel humps.
*Sedaris, Dave. Me Talk Pretty One Day. New York: Back Bay Books, 2000. Print.