Friday, November 2, 2018

David Sedaris' Calypso


I spent three days gobbling up David Sedaris's new book, Calypso. It's a book of essays that adds up to a memoir, about his relationship with his immediate family and his boyfriend. His mother was an alcoholic and one of his sisters committed suicide but the book still manages to be laugh out loud funny, despite the darkness and some of his more disturbing confessions. In the chapter, "The Spirit World," he writes about his sister, Tiffany:

"The last time I saw my sister Tiffany was at the stage door at Symphony Hall in Boston. I'd just finished a show and was getting ready to sign books when I heard her say 'David. David, it's me. ' 
We hadn't spoken in four years at that point, and I was shocked by her appearance. Tiffany always looked like my mother when she was young. Now she looked like my mother when she was old, though at the time she couldn't have been more than forty-give. 'It's me, Tiffany.' She held up a paper bag with the Starbucks logo on it. Her shoes looked like she'd found them in a trash can. 'I have something for you.'  There was a security guard holding the stage door open, and I said to him, 'Will you close that please?' I had filled the house that night. I was in charge---Mr. Sedaris. 'The door,' I repeated. 'I'd like for you to close it now.' "

Sedaris never saw or spoke to his sister again. She died by overdose and asphyxiation four years later.  It's a singularly appalling moment in an otherwise (mostly) warm and loving book, but kudos to Sedaris for admitting to being such a schmuck, out loud and in print. 

In "Why Aren't You Laughing?," Sedaris paints a loving portrait of his mother, who, despite her alcoholic rages and self-destructive tendencies, was a master storyteller who taught her kids the art of story-telling and sent them loving notes and money when they needed it. In other essays, Sedaris writes about his obsession with his Fitbit, his love affair with a fox named Carol, getting a 6-day stomach virus and performing anyway, his staunchly Republican father, his efforts to feed his own tumor to his favorite snapping turtle in North Carolina, and the number of lovers his boyfriend had before they met. 

If you don't want to read the whole book, here is a l
ink to "Why Aren't You Laughing?", an essay about the highs and lows of life with his mother, and  a link to "Now We Are Five", an essay about what happened to his immediate family after his sister passed away.  You can also listen to Sedaris read "Now We Are Five" on This American Life. But I suggest buying or borrowing the whole book. You won't be able to put it down.

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