I’d read some of the twenty-one pieces in Calypso before, since some of them appeared in The New Yorker, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this book at all: I feel like a David Sedaris essay generally stands up to a re-read. A back cover blurb from Marion Winik at Newsday captures the appeal perfectly: “His personal essays,” Winik writes, “are put together so carefully that none of the seams show; they often ingeniously build to a sneak attack of wisdom or poignancy in the final lines.” These pieces are about family and loss and middle-age and mortality and being a flawed human interacting with other flawed humans, and they manage to be funny and moving and totally engaging: my boyfriend and I were reading this book at the same time, and we both kept commenting on what a pleasure it was.

In this book, Sedaris writes about family clashes and connections and missed opportunities: about worrying he’ll get on his family’s nerves when they visit him and his partner in England, or arguing with his dad about politics, or shopping with two of his sisters in Tokyo, or the last time he saw his sister Tiffany (who later committed suicide), or how none of his siblings ever confronted their mother about her alcoholism. He writes about the differences between his partner’s family and his own, and about easy beach-house conversation during board games, or while lounging in the sun. He writes about how his father is (mostly) easier to get along with in his old age than he was earlier in his life, and about how it feels like they don’t really know how to talk to one another, though they bond over jazz. He writes about personal experiences ranging from an adventure in tumor removal to his obsession with his Fitbit (the Fitbit piece, “Stepping Out,” is totally one of my favorites in the book), and about what business travel in the US is like, and about a fox that had been visiting his backyard in West Sussex. He writes about same-sex marriage, and about ghosts, and about insults people use in other countries. Throughout, I found myself grinning and laughing and nodding in recognition: I read this book over the course of four days and kept looking forward to when I’d be able to pick it up next.

2 Responses to “Calypso by David Sedaris
Little, Brown and Company, 2018”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End Says:

    God, it has been AGES since I read a David Sedaris book! I’ll have to check this out — I’m particularly interested in what he has to say about his late sister, as I read a fair amount about survivors of suicide. I liked his work a lot in high school! I’m not sure why I’ve let so much time lapse between reading his books!

  2. Heather Says:

    I think this is only the second book of his I’ve ever read – I definitely read Me Talk Pretty One Day back in 2004 (!) but I think since then I’ve only read his pieces in the New Yorker. I’ve been told I should really read Barrel Fever, so maybe I’ll get around to that at some point. I’m really glad I read this one, though.

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