Monday 9 July 2018

Calypso by David Sedaris

This was my very first David Sedaris book.

I know! Where have I been & what on earth have I been doing?

I've been meaning to read him for years and years, but it was the opening line in Calypso that hooked me,
Though there's an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you'll acquire a guest room.

As someone who enjoyed having a guest room throughout my (single) twenties & thirties but lost it when I married with kids - in my middle years - I knew exactly what Sedaris meant about the joys of having a guest room. I'm now past the middle years (it would be nice to think I will reach 100 yrs of age, but highly unlikely given my family history) and I'm still waiting to rediscover the guest room (the kids will move out one day won't they?)

Like Sedaris, I speak in jest, mostly! Mr Books & I are very aware that our time with kids living at home is coming to an end. It is a bittersweet period. You want to enjoy this last phase of the family all living together, but at the same time we can drive each crazy with differing expectations and opinions about cleanliness, how long a shower should last & where to leave the car keys!

Sedaris' writing felt so relatable and relevant that after you finish chuckling about his story, you start thinking about your own!

Sedaris grew up with five sibling ("Six kids! people would say. "How do your poor folks manage?")
I was one of four ("Four girls!" people would say. "How does your poor dad manage?")
I'm not sure how it is in small families, but in large ones relationships tend to shift over time. You might be best friends with one brother or sister, then two years later it might be someone else. Then it's likely to change again, and again after that. It doesn't mean that you've fallen out with the person you used to be closest to but that you've merged into someone else's lane, or had him or her merge into yours. Trios form, then morph into quartets before splitting into teams of two. The beauty of it is that it's always changing.


A fitbit obsession led Sedaris onto a 60 000 step regime - me? I will walk an extra km just to hatch an egg in pokemon go! Sad but true.

The stuff David talks about is personal, which caused this reader to reflect on many of her own personal beliefs and feelings.
One afternoon we scattered my mother's ashes in the surf behind the house....My mother died in 1991, yet reaching into the bag, touching her remains, essentially throwing her away, was devastating, even after all this time.

This is a topic much on our minds at the moment. I always thought I wanted to have my ashes scattered in the ocean, off a cliff or in a garden. But in the past ten years or so, I've witnessed so many people - the survivors of loss - really, really struggle to scatter the ashes of their beloved. It's too hard. So they don't. Instead ashes end up in cupboards or under beds and those who would like to have someone where to go to mourn their loss are left with nothing - no grave, no plaque, no memorial, no special beach, mountain or tree. Sedaris' story confirmed for me that I want my ashes buried, preferably within a couple of weeks of my death, under a rose bush or tree, with a plaque. I don't want to make this time even harder than it may already be for those that I leave behind.

From what I have read, this is the most personal that Sedaris has been in his writing. I enjoyed his stories about family and ageing, but then he started down the road of commentary and anecdotes. I didn't find them funny. The story about what people in other countries call out of cars at bad drivers was laugh out loud funny, but the rest left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Many of his jokes and tricks seemed rather mean and occasionally cruel. Like his comment about pulling a guess 'out of my ass in order to get a rise out of someone' - someone who had just told him that her mother had cancer. I was also annoyed by his American abroad approach to politics - proud to be ignorant of all things not American. Certainly not someone I would want to sit next to at a dinner party!

So sadly, I think this will be my one and only Sedaris. The annoying bits out-weighed the interesting or amusing.

Book 10 of #20booksofsummer (winter) drop-in title
Sydney 18℃
Northern Ireland 24℃

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