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Calypso by David Sedaris

December 16, 2018


Sedaris thought his new North Carolina beach house deserved a name, like some of the great estates of the world. He settled on the “Sea Section.” In this ninth collection of essays from Sedaris, the Sea Section plays a thematic role and a jumping-off point for many of the essays. In typical Sedaris fashion, much of his content is about his family, their small and large dramas, their changing relationships, their need to come together even those they drive each other nuts. But he also writes about many, many other things: his life as a famous writer, the idiosyncrasies of random people in his life, a particularly vulgar Romanian curse, feeding a tumor he had removed to a snapping turtle. When his sister suggests that ghosts can haunt antiques, which is why some people avoid buying vintage clothes, Sedaris asks, “Doesn’t dry cleaning kill them?” The essays are absurd, hilarious, biting and sardonic.

I don’t know of any other writer who makes me laugh out loud with such frequency. But with this collection, Sedaris introduces more than a tinge of melancholy. He grapples with his aging father, with whom he has never fully connected. He considers his own mortality as he’s approaching the age at which his mother died of cancer. And he wrestles with his guilt over the 2013 suicide of his estranged sister.

At this stage in his career, he’s beyond just comedy. He has mastered the art of taking his reader on a surprising emotional journey, following a heavy essay about his sister with one about crapping your pants on a plane. He can jump from the aforementioned snapping turtle tumor feeding to considering how much his family means to him.

Like all of his collections, there is much to like in this one. I look forward to the day, twenty or thirty years from now, when they release the “Best of David Sedaris.” It will be an amazing book, one I can give to some young person who has never heard of him and say, “You want funny? Get a load of this.”

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