Calypso by David Sedaris
Little, Brown & Co., 2018
I have been a David Sedaris fan for decades. His sarcastic, sardonic wit — even in its rawest, most shocking form — always makes me snicker. Sometimes it is a nervous chuckle, as if I know I shouldn’t be laughing at someone else’s pain and suffering. Other times I find myself giggling uncontrollably, and then guiltily looking around to see if anyone heard me snort. That is what happens when you read a David Sedaris book.
So, it was no surprise that I immediately snapped up David’s latest release, Calypso. It is filled with the typical Sedaris humor: he mocks his own fitbit addiction; he feeds his fatty tumor [removed by a pseudo-doctor] to a turtle, who ironically also bears a tumor; and he shares several gastrointestinal stories that will make you cringe – literally.
However, there is a definite intensity to this book that you don’t find in most of his others. It is by far the darkest (and perhaps my favorite) of all his books. David quickly delves into deeper topics that show us his own vulnerability — depression, politics and tragedy are recurring themes. Many of the stories revolve around his family, particularly as they gather at David’s vacation home (endearingly named The Sea Section) in North Carolina. His deceased sister, Tiffany, practically haunts the entire book. His guilt revealed most poignantly at the end, as he describes the scene where he last saw her before she ended her own life. He also addresses his mother’s alcoholism, and his disbelief that his own father is a Trump supporter.
David exposes more of himself in this book, quietly revealing that his wit and sarcasm may only serve to mask those darker parts of himself. I found myself weeping at the profound sadness in these more heartbreaking scenes, but not uncomfortably so. Rather, as if you were sitting on a couch with your closest friend, who just revealed their soul to you. They were tears of immense compassion for someone I feel I have known for decades.
If you are a Sedaris fan, you will soon become a bigger Sedaris fan. If you are not a Sedaris fan, perhaps you will develop a greater appreciation of him by gaining insight into his quirky sense of humor. Regardless, sit back and enjoy the ride. For Calypso will have you spinning between snorts of laughter and heartrending tears.
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