Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000) is a collection of twenty-seven essays by American author and humorist David Sedaris, and had me laughing to tears on the commute to work last week. I recently read his Naked (1997) and loved the wordplay mixed in with all the irreverent, self-deprecating humor, and I needed more. So, next was Me Talk Pretty One Day, divided into two parts, the first about growing up and his quirky family, mostly in North Carolina, and the second about his comically demoralizing struggles as an American living abroad in France.
It's brilliant how he makes writing humor look easy. His essays glide with smooth but unexpected swerves, like in "The Youth in Asia" when a vet suggests euthanasia for a sick dog and Sedaris enters into a long, bizarre digression as he recalls a TV drama he watched as a kid about two Japanese boys. In "Jesus Shaves", my favorite in the book, he recounts a French class in which the students hopelessly tried to explain Easter to a Moroccan student—I nearly tinkled myself stifling hard laughs on the subway. He's constantly clever even though he refers to himself as the "village idiot" and unabashedly divulges his paltry IQ score. At times his writing is reminiscent of Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint (1969), early Woody Allen, and Italo Calvino's Marcovaldo (1963), but it's uniquely Sedaris at heart, and I really look forward to reading more of his collections, including Calypso, released just last year.