I hate Valentine’s day. It’s a dumb holiday made to make couples feel bad by not being able to do something over the top wonderful and single people feel desperately alone while the rest of the world seemingly flourishes with love and acceptance.
That being said, plus my general dislike for February: the worst month is not a sentiment I alone carry. However I’m here to help you feel less bad about the dismal political situation and the increasingly bleak global climate change crisis with a very funny book by American humourist David Sedaris called “Me Talk Pretty One Day”.
This is a book of memoir essays set roughly in a chronological order about Sedaris and friends, maybe “friend and family” since the reoccuring cast is composed of his boyfriend Hugh and some family members. The book is split into two parts: “One” which contains 13 essays set in the United States and “Deux” which contains 14 essays set in France.
What I really liked about this book, other than it’s ability to wring tears from alternating twists of hilarity and sentiment, is how easy it is to pick it up and read an essay(1) and put it back down.
Particular essays of note are:
Go Carolina – This being the first essay opens up with a story from Sedaris’s childhood about being place in speech therapy for his lisp and the stigma that comes with it. This essay struck home with me being that when I was in primary school, I too was forced to take speech therapy for a similar lisp on account of my “s” sounding like “th”. One of the marks of subtle genius was in the essay every time Sedaris has dialogue for his speech therapist, the “s” are initialized emphasizing her slithering exacting of the sadistic sound.
“I’m trying to help you, but the longer you play these games the longer this is going to take.”
-Agent Samson, p. 7
Another quote that rings beyond the story is the idea of therapy.
“…with the exception of my mother, I discussed [the therapy sessions] with no one. The word therapy suggested a profound failure on my part.” (p. 7)
This talks to a deep seeded view, particularly in the American mind set that therapy is something for deeply broken or crazy people.
“Despite the woman’s best efforts, no one seemed to make any significant improvement. The only difference was that we were all a little quieter.” (p.12)
This is one reason why I was always quite in school until going off to university because twice a week I was made painfully aware that I talk differently and that somehow that is improper. Not only was I made painfully aware of there was this idea that there was something painfully wrong with me to all my peers when I would be mysteriously summoned from class to attend my sessions.
The Learning Curve – this essay is about one of Sedaris’s earliest teaching positions for a creative writing workshop. This was the first essay I read, since this book was assigned for class some essays were picked for reading and this was one of them, and it made an excellent first impression of the book.
This essay, like so many of Sedaris’s others, playfully pokes deep insecurities that I imagine (hope) that I am not alone in harboring with poignant quotes:
The position was offered at the last minute, when the scheduled professor found a better-paying job delivering pizza.
As Mr. Sedaris I lived in constatnt fear. There was the perfectly understandable fear of being exposed as a fraud, and then there was the deeper fear that my students might hate me.
Or the dreaded angry-but-clever student
“Let me get this straight,” one student said. “You’re telling me that if I say something out loud, it’s me saying it, but if I write the exact same thing on paper, it’s somebody else, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “And we’re calling that fiction.”
The student pulled out his notebook, wrote something down, and handed me a sheet of paper that read, “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I ever heard in my life.”
Before reading this and before the state of student teachers plummeted (2) I wanted to be a teacher. Now? Who knows, maybe I’ll secure a job as a professional dust collector.
The Late Show – This essay is about sleep. Or rather the lack of and coping strategies. Sedaris describes that a normal sleep schedule involves laying down around 11pm and laying awake until 5:48am in between letting his mind be occupied by various day (night?) dreams of various levels of fantastic complexity from the “Mr. Science” fantasy about being a scientist who invents “the perfect idea” and lives wildly comfortable, to “The Knockout” about being a boxer but contains some of my absolute favourite descriptions of hair I’ve ever read:
…my inky black hair, which weighs in midway between curly and wavy, and calls for the invention of a new word.
“It’s…cravy,” you’ll say. “Like a storm at sea if the ocean were made out of hair instead of water.”
Overall this is a book I have re read in part a few times mostly in part because of it’s format but also because there are some essays that really gross me out like the last one “I’ll have what he’s wearing” which I’ll leave it up to you to read and form your own opinions on. This is the kind of book that I love to have on hand because it’s low commitment, when studying English Literature and trying to finish Infinite Jest (second swipe) reading time becomes hard to come by.
- Range: 3-20 pages per essay and average: 8.81 pages per essay
- Okay this is a pretty serious issue not only in the UK but also in the US with horrifying things like this “[The University and College Union (UCU)] says that higher education has become one of the most casualised sectors in the UK – second only to the hospitality industry.” The ENTIRE reason I got back into school was to get OUT of the hospitality industry, not only to get out of the minimum wage spiral but to also secure a job in a field that I could find security. This is no longer the case and when I’m pushing 30, facing a mountain of student debt, and dependent on a government that does not value the the financial aid program or generally public education to pay for a higher education, I’m in a pretty hot situation where I cannot plan a future beyond “what am I going to eat for dinner the next 6 months?”