A more varied and less consistent essay collection from the noted humorist.
In middle age, Sedaris (When You Are Engulfed in Flames, 2008) no longer aims as often for laugh-out-loud funny as he did when he attracted a popular following almost two decades ago. Most of these essays revisit many of the areas he’s previously mined for hilarity—the dysfunctional family stuff, the gay stuff, the American-living-abroad stuff—but much of what he returns to in memory seems less antic and more melancholy than before. In the funniest piece, the penultimate “The Happy Place,” he discovers his Eden by embracing what others of his generation resist: the colonoscopy. “Never had I experienced such an all-encompassing sense of well-being,” he writes. “Everything was soft-edged and lovely. Everyone was magnificent….I’m not sure how long I lay there, blissed-out and farting.” Amid characteristic riffs on book tours, foreigners who eat funny (and Britons who talk funny), his underwear-clad, alcohol-swilling father, and his adventures in a variety of countries with his partner, Sedaris engages readers with a number of pieces in which he writes from a perspective that is obviously not the author’s, raging about the decline of liberty, morality and Western civilization in general in the wake of Barack Obama. With Jesus riding shotgun, the narrator of “If I Ruled the World” froths, “I’ll crucify the Democrats, the Communists, and a good 97% of the college students.” Funnier and sharper is “Just a Quick E-mail,” in which what appears to be a justifiable complaint about a chintzy wedding gift becomes ever more revelatory about the monstrosity of the sender.
Those who have followed Sedaris through the years will find plenty to enjoy, though not much in the way of surprise or revelation.