Tag Archives: memoir

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

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“A person doesn’t consciously choose what he focuses on. Those things choose you, and, once they do, nothing, it seems, can shake them.” ~~ David Sedaris in Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

From Lauren’s Perspective:

Hilarious and insightful as always, Sedaris has another hit with Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.  The stories found within its pages did more than just make me laugh, they made me think.  They made me question humanity and it’s current state, and whether its current state is positive or not.  And most of all they made me really want to know David Sedaris in the way it felt like I already knew him after reading this collection of essays.

Reading a book like this, one full of very personal short stories about a writers life, is always hard to critique.  I can’t do it in the way I would a novel, yet there is a lot to be said about Sedaris’ stories.  He manages to write about a world that happens to be his reality, while still making it seem outlandish in some ways, unbelievable in some ways, and hilarious in most ways.

He writes about normal, everyday things like what to get his boyfriend for Valentine’s day in his story “Understanding Understanding Owls”, and he writes about all the amazing trips he goes on in just about all of his other stories.  But even while travelling the world, seeing amazing things and experiencing life in a way everyone should, he manages to bring you with him.  Instead of talking about staying in expensive hotels, he talks about renovating a home and picking up trash at the side of the road.  Instead of talking about five star travel, and first-class lounges, he shares stories about a sea turtle that changed his life in Hawaii.

That’s not to say he tries to relate to everyone. That’s not to say he is trying to down play the amazing life he’s lived.  He still tells stories about buying homes in Paris and in West Sussex, about living all over the world; but rather than tell us stories about a lavish lifestyle, he relates stories about the mundane things that happen within that sometimes lavish lifestyle.  He makes you relate by showing you that no matter what, you will experience strange people in strange cities doing strange things, and sometimes those strange people will be your family and friends, and sometimes those strange cities will be the ones where you spend most of your life.

The best thing about Sedaris, in my opinion, is his ability to go off on a tangent while always bringing the story back home.  What starts out as a story about an inside joke turns into a story about a journey for the perfect Valentine’s day gift, which then turns into a story about his love of strange and sometimes disturbing objects.  But in the end, Sedaris brings his readers back to the importance of the owl, he brings his readers back to the reason he wrote the story to begin with.  It feels as though you are reading twenty stories at once, you wonder where he could possibly be going with his stories, until suddenly, you don’t have to wonder anymore and everything makes sense.  He always ends his stories perfectly, oftentimes throwing in a life lesson, or sometimes simply describing a peculiar life event, but always doing so with perfectly timed humour.

David Sedaris is a unique writer, in that he has spent most of his career writing about nothing but himself, even though he claims he hasn’t lived that extraordinary of a life.  To have the talent to write about sometimes mundane things that happen in everyday life and turn them into something meaningful and hilarious is a wonderful thing.  To give this to his readers time and time again is his gift to the world.

This book is perfect for anyone who claims not to be a lover of books, someone who doesn’t spend all their time reading.  The stories are short, easy to get through, easier to laugh through, and perfect for anyone looking to get into some great summer reading.

Rating

Plot – N/A
Writing/Style/Form – 4/5
Characters – N/A
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 4/5

Overall Score – 8/10

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

“People with anxiety disorders are often labeled as “shy” or “quiet” or “that strange girl who probably buries bodies in her basement.”  I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to me as the latter, but I always assume that’s what people are thinking, because that sort of paranoia is a common side effect of anxiety disorder.” – Jenny Lawson in Let’s Pretend this Never Happened

From Lauren’s Perspective:

A few months ago a friend of mind introduced me to a new blog by someone called The Bloggess, (the same friend that introduced me to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later Harry Potter.  I really should thank her for all my current obsessions) and within the first few entries I was hooked. The Bloggess is hilarious.  She is the kind of funny that the term “LOL” should have been made for.  Not to mention she’s kind of crazy, which gives me something to relate to.  She has substance and writes about important issues like body image and depression in between hilarious  posts about Copernicus the Homicidal Monkey and Beyonce the Giant Metal Chicken.  Lawson is crazy in all the ways you hope to be, in all the ways that make you endearing and quirky.

Needless to say, when I heard her book was coming out, I immediately pre-ordered it and anxiously awaited its arrival.  It unfortunately turned out, however, that I was too broke for my order to go through and the day before the release I received an email telling me I hadn’t actually paid yet.  So the day of the release, I went to Chapters and begged my boyfriend to let me buy it, but he knew as well as I did it was out of my budget and I’d be better off waiting for pay day.  He rationally talked me into ordering the e-book for now and waiting for the hardcover when I had some extra money.  So smart, so simple, it was the perfect solution.  But then, of course, the KOBO online store wouldn’t take American Express, my only form of payment, so once again I was left with no way of reading the book I had long been waiting for.

True to form, and I think rather fitting for one of Lawson’s die-hard followers, I broke out into a full-blown panic attack.  I needed to read this book and I needed to read it now.  Through hyperventilating sobs my boyfriend tried everything to calm me down, wishing he had just let me spend the grocery money on the book in the first place.  He went back and forth between being completely bewildered at my breaking down over a book and concern for my well-being.  He just didn’t understand.  Lawson was just like me and I needed to hear her say that everything was going to be okay.  Somehow this book would make everything okay.

After a long search, we managed to find a way to use interac online and the book was finally mine.  I spent the rest of the night reading, completely content.

The next problem that came was trying to find a place I could actually read this ridiculously funny book.  Initially, I tried the bathtub, as that is where I’ve been known to relax with a good book for hours.  But this book was not relaxing and within minutes I was nearly choking on my own laughter.  The atmosphere in the tub was just not right.

I moved to my bed, the next best place for reading, and spent the next two hours keeping my boyfriend awake.  After he had calmly helped me through my earlier episode I felt it was unfair to repay him with laughing fits all night, so I gave up and went to bed.

The next day was no better, it ends up that laughing loudly on public transit gets you nothing but glares from angry commuters and looks of pity from the others who just think you’re crazy.  And when I attempted to read on my break at work, I was met with confusion. Laughter had never been heard in the break room before.  I was a menace wherever I went and it was worth every minute of it.

So basically, here’s my review:  READ THIS BOOK.  READ IT NOW.  Just be careful, because you will annoy the hell out of everyone around you.

As for the rest, I just don’t feel comfortable rating this book the way I do most others.  I can’t give a rating on the plot because it’s Lawson’s life.  And I can’t rate her characters because they are her family and friends.  So instead I am going to give one score out of 20 based on nothing but the overall enjoyment because that is what this book is about.  It’s about laughing at your crazy life, finding love amidst the chaos in your mind, and living as happily as possible despite overwhelming fear.

Seriously, you should read it.

Rating:

Overall Enjoyment – 19/20

From Krista’s Perspective:

“They try to be understanding but they don’t understand. I run outside to escape the worried eyes of people who love me, people who are afraid of me, strangers who wonder what’s wrong with me.” ~~ Jenny Lawson in Let’s Pretend this Never Happened

Back in April, Lauren had to thank a friend for turning her on to the fantastically hilarious Bloggess who does not hesitate to write the most outlandish, ridiculous things to have ever been put on a page.  Now I have to reiterate that.  Thanks to Lauren I have spent the last few months picking up this book any time I needed a good laugh or a good non-thinking book.  I didn’t get through this book as quickly as Lauren but that in no way is a reflection of this amazing book.  It was more of something I wanted to savor, to spread out the laughs, and to have something that could distract me in those moments of overwhelming stress and brain-overload.  The Bloggess delivered exactly that.

This is unlike anything I have ever read.  Truly.  She begins the book by explaining that her life is “basically like Little House on the Prairie but with more cursing“, and does her best to include all demographics by claiming that “druggies will totally relate to it, and nondruggies will feel smugly self-satisfied with their life choices when they read it”.  If that isn’t enough to pique your interest I don’t know what is.  This book is filled with over-exaggerated reactions, nonsensical rants (in a brilliant way) and ramblings of ridiculous tales that will literally make you laugh out loud.  This is no lie.  I made the harsh mistake of reading the majority of this book in the airport and on the plane for my recent trip back home to Canada resulting in me making a total ass of myself bursting out laughing, snorting, and covering my mouth to mask my giggles.  I’ve never had a book cause that type of reaction and it was well deserved.

The book alternates between stories from her childhood and the accidentally fearful circumstances their loving taxidermist father put them in, and the recounting of tales of her marriage to Victor as they raise their daughter Hayley.  All equally hilarious.  Her childhood is filled with stories of dead squirrel hand puppets, attempts at dressing Goth to stand out in high school, and getting her hand stuck inside of a cow.  Stories from her adultlife include ones that come to a conclusion like this:  “Then I said a little prayer thanking God for saving me from getting assaulted, and also for not making me have to explain to the ambulance drivers that I’d accidentally mistaken my cat for a rapist after purposefully overdosing on laxatives in order to make my antidepressants work better.”  No.  I’m not going to explain that story any better.  You are just going to have to read it to find out, but word of advice?  Don’t make my mistake of trying to swallow a sip of wine at the same time or you may also spit it across the counter of the airport bar causing 85 people to look at you extremely oddly.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There are moments in this book where you want to shake your head and say, “That just can’t be true.  No one would react that way!  She and her husband couldn’t possibly threaten to poison each other or stab each other in the eye that often.”  All I know is that this book works through the up’s and down’s of this crazy life in a fantastic way.  It makes light of impossible situations and brings hilarity to moments of anxiety and stress.

The Bloggess words her personal tale like this:  “I see how we’ve changed to create a “normal” that no sane person would ever consider “normal”, but that works for us.  A new normal.  I see us becoming comfortable with our own brand of dysfunctional functionality, our own unique way of measuring successes. But most important, I see me…or rather the me I’ve become. Because I can finally see that all the terrible parts of my life, the embarrassing parts, the incidents I wanted to pretend never happened, and the things that make me “weird” and “different” were actually the most important parts of my life. They were the parts that made me me. And this was the very reason I decided to tell this story…to celebrate the strange, to give thanks for the bizarre.”  She acknowledges that she is different but embraces it in a beautiful, powerful way.

The Bloggess’ story is told with a heartfelt honesty that we should all strive to achieve. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety or depression, I guarantee you will still find this to be one of the funniest books you’ve read.

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