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Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

July 1, 2008

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

I’ve heard the name David Sedaris thrown around — I’ve heard he writes some funny books. I also knew he was the brother of Amy Sedaris, who is responsible for the creation of my MySpace Hero, Jerri Blank of Strangers with Candy.

Hearing one is funny and being related to Amy Sedaris are certainly qualifications enough for me to pick up a book. So, I borrowed Me Talk Pretty One Day from Nate and read it this last week.

And yes, it was funny. It is an anecdotal book, with each chapter showing us a little from David Sedaris’s life. They are amusing, short chapters; you don’t have to read the whole book to get the picture. This would be something to keep on your shelf for a little pick-me-up — just read a chapter and you’ll feel better.

Sedaris writes mostly of his childhood speech impediment, teaching a writing class and moving to Paris to learn French. My favorite part of the book was definitely the American in Paris part. It was a hilarious jaunt through foreigners’ conceptions of Americans, and of Americans’ conceptions of foreigners. I feel I learned a lot about France, too, which was a bonus. Did you know that rather than having a rabbit deliver chocolate on Easter, the French have a bell do the dirty work? Seriously. Sedaris claims that is “fucked up” (180).

A great vignette involves Sedaris using public transportation, where he meets two Fellow Americans. However, because he doesn’t say anything to him, and, well, most Americans are idiots, they assume he’s a French pickpocket.

It’s a common mistake for vacationing Americans to assume that everyone around them is French and therefore speaks no English whatsoever. These two didn’t seem like exceptionally mean people. Back home they probably would have had the decency to whisper, but here they felt free to say whatever they wanted, face-to-face and in a normal tone of voice. It was the same way someone might talk in front of a building or a painting they found particularly unpleasant. An experienced traveler could have told by looking at my shoes that I wasn’t French. And even if I were French, it’s not as if English is some mysterious tribal dialect spoken only by anthropologists and a small population of cannibals. They happen to teach English in schools all over the world. There are no eligibility requirements. Anyone can learn it. Even people who reportedly smell bad despite the fact that they’ve just taken a bath and are wearing clean clothes.

Because they had used the tiresome word froggy and had complained about my odor, I was now licensed to hate this couple as much as I wanted. This made me happy, as I’d wanted to hate them from the moment I’d entered the subway car and seen them hugging the pole. Unleashed by their insults, I was now free to criticize Martin’s clothing: the pleated denim shorts, the baseball cap, the T-shirt advertising a San Diego pizza restaurant. Sunglasses hung from his neck on a fluorescent cable, and the couple’s bright new his-and-her sneakers suggested that they might be headed somewhere dressy for dinner (221-222).

It’s funny. I definitely recommend reading it if you want to laugh.

Next up: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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