Book Review: ‘Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls’ by David Sedaris

author’s note: I first posted this review on Goodreads. 

As a big David Sedaris fan (and who isn’t, these days?), I was especially excited to be able to preorder this book, and have it delivered to my door on the date of its release. 

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But I found myself putting off cracking it open. I let my mother read it first, saying that I needed to focus on college exams and final projects, and I had another book that I needed to finish. But the truth was, I was afraid it would never live up to my expectations, which for Sedaris, a writer I consider to be at the pinnacle of satirical non-fiction, are high.

Well, I read ‘Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls’ a week or so ago, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t really impressed, either, but that’s because I’m comparing this book to Sedaris’ other work, the worst of which would still be more perfectly executed and enjoyable than that of other authors. This book isn’t as good as ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’, which I consider to be his best work. But I think it’s on the same tier as his other titles.

The main difference between this book and his other works is most of the subject matter is current. Before he was drawing off of his childhood, but now he’s writing mostly about recent events. There is also a change in tone- before we had the voice of a talented writer who hadn’t yet been lauded. Now he’s had some success, and realizes he can write about pretty much anything, and his audience will eat it up. I’d like to point this out as a fault, but here’s the thing- he’s right. It doesn’t matter if he’s talking about hating Chinese food, Australian Birds of Prey, or Hitchhiking across the country, His tone and self deprecating humor make all of the subjects, if not equally enjoyable, than pretty darn close. 

This book is also more serious than his other books. He comments more on politics and getting old, and missed opportunities. Another reviewer said this was a negative, but I actually liked it. The humor was still there, but Sedaris is using it to focus on deeper subjects. He’s definitely grown as a writer.

There are a few things that didn’t work so well. First of all, his fiction. I know I’m in the majority with this, but let me just reiterate: Sedaris’ fiction is not as good as his essays. I hated the book ‘Barrel Fever’, and didn’t even get halfway through ‘Chipmunk Seeks Squirrel.’ The problem with his fiction is that it has the exact same tone as his essays, but describes totally outlandish scenes that leave me, at least, thinking, ‘WTF?’ You’d think someone with such an interesting mind as Sedaris would write something better. Oh well.

The other thing that bothered me was that this book had a lot of references to the events in his other essays that I felt were put in for the benefit of the people who have read those essays. The most blatant one was in ‘A Man Walks into a Bar Car’ where he references his time as a Macy’s Elf.

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About Haley Dziuk

Haley Dziuk writes both fiction and narrative nonfiction. Her stories and essays have appeared in "The Hoot Review" and "Nail Polish Stories." She works as a librarian for the Phoenix Public Library. When she's not writing or patrolling the stacks, she likes to sing along to her guitar, and go on mini adventures with her boyfriend.
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