Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is an apparent autobiography of his life from the time when he was a child with a lisp (which apparently in some way pre-destined his homosexuality) up to his life as an adult. In the book he chronicles his relationship with his parents, siblings and lovers mostly.
Mr. Sedaris is hilarious in what feels like a "caffeinated" string of jokes he delivers throughout the book that had me laughing out loud nearly every third or fourth page. In the early part of the book, he fights his need to deal with his lisp head on while working with a speech therapist by avoiding the letter "s" when speaking.
So, for example, when his speech therapist asks what he plans to do on New Year's Eve, the character responds:
On the final day of the year we take down the pine tree in our living room and eat marine life.
That's pretty clever and funny stuff. The book really hits it stride, for my money, when he gets older and goes through a series of odd jobs and even odder relationships (in and out of the workplace). At one point he is working for a moving company in New York. He goes into a hilarious riff discussing how rent determines break-ups in some way and that often times during break-ups folks are itching to tell all the details.
When describing one interaction where a man found out that his significant other was having sex with her ex-boyfriend on their couch, they would ask how many times. The broken man responded (yelling because they were in a truck):
"JUST ONCE THAT I KNOW OF, BUT ISN'T THAT ENOUGH?"
"IT DEPENDS, HOW MUCH WAS YOUR RENT?"
It's silly and the humor is a bit obvious at times but that's what made the book so enjoyable. Whether it was his much younger brother who, like Denis Farina in Get Shorty, carpet f-bombed like it was going out of style or his hilarious interactions with French people as he was learning French, he always has a silly slant on already funny situations.
He was insightful at times, including lamenting the lost distinction between a phobia and a loathing. But he's at his best when he is honest and biting in his writing. The high point of the novel was when he writes about the experience of taking French from a very angry woman who taught a group of frightened non-French speaker.
He drove a grand slam when describing a heated discussion about what Easter means. The group, mostly Christian and all afraid of the French teacher therefore they chose very simple words but all French was trying to describe what Easter meant to a Muslim who spoke excellent French but was in the class who had no idea what Easter actually meant and the teacher called on them to explain it, and they did in really bad French, translated to English.
The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability "It is" said one, "a party for the little boy of God who calls his self Jesus and....oh, s***." She faltered and her fellow countryman came to her aid.
"He calls his self Jesus and then he die one day on two....morsels....of lumber."
The rest of the class jumped in , offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.
"He die one day and then go above my head to live with your father."
"He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here to say hello to the peoples."
"He nice, the Jesus."
"He make good things, and on the Easter we be sad, because somebody makes him dead today."
They struggled because explaining complex theological concepts was beyond their linguistic ability so they turned to food.
"Easter is a party to eat of the lamb." The Italian nanny explained. "One too many eat of the chocolate."
"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.
I knew the word, so I raised my hand, saying, "The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."
"Well sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have a basket and foods.
He goes on to pick apart the absolute silliness of how any religious event could have manifested Easter and it's various traditions. It's where he combines his ability to be insightful with his pointed and, at times, side-splitting humor.
I didn't walk away from reading the book a changed person, but I did walk away with a new author who I really dig and an easy and enjoyable read of a book that I would definitely recommend. Do yourself a favor if you are going to read it, commit to not taking yourself too seriously, Mr. Sedaris doesn't in Me Talk Pretty One Day and it's delightful to read.