Hands down David Sedaris has one of the most hilarious families in American history, but unlike the Marx brothers or any other staged family menagerie, the Sedarises are the genuine article. In the depiction, ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY, we are reunited with the family Sedaris, a warped Van Trapp family, and as one of the opening chapter indicates, "with musical instruments and all." Flourishing from the groundwork laid by Sedaris's NAKED, ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY revisits his oh, so comical developmental years in a household of five plus children, each the mis-proportioned combination of a sometimes loudmouthed, articulate mother with a penchant for cocktails and a father devoid of pretension who, as we learned in NAKED, hides rotten food for later consumption and wards his children from danger with tales of others' horrible disfigurement, instilling in his kids neurosis after neurosis.
ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY opens on a most popular movie premise: an agent arriving to pick up a supposed wrongdoer. After learning the agent is actually a speech therapist sicced on young David's lisp, a hysterical rendition of speech therapy classes, or a series of "de-gaying" tactics as Sedaris explains, ensues. Then, we are launched into a story of father Sedaris's desire to make his kids into musical prodigies, where after an uneventful few lessons our narrator decides to dazzle his midget teacher, Mr. Mancini, with a less than successful singing number. Mr. Mancini becomes unnerved by David's flamboyancy, and Sedaris shares again another awkward yet laugh out loud segment of his life growing up gay, Greek and misunderstood in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I roared at each conveying from dabbling in drugs to devoted family pets to questionable performance art so summed up by Sedaris's mother who leans over to the gallery owner during her son's first show and says, "I just passed a lady in the bathroom and told her, 'Honey, why flush it? Carry it into the next room and they'll put it on a pedestal.'" The chapter devoted to Sedaris's brother Paul, more affectionately known as the Rooster, is one of my favorites. The only Sedaris to be born and bred in North Carolina (the rest are dislocated northerners), he is the product of the deep south and the decline of parental discipline. Vulgar, wild and redneck, going by the rap moniker Silly P., the Rooster is almost an amalgam of everyone's most peculiar but lovable relative.
ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY culminates in France, where Sedaris heads with his boyfriend to encounter obnoxious American tourists defaming him loudly on the metro system, unaware he is their compatriot and understands English. This is also where Sedaris enthusiastically takes a French class. In this chapter he describes a heady discussion of the western tradition of Easter spoken in broken pig-French by the eager students with whom he studies, which when translated, sounds like something worse than illiteracy.
I'm a comic junkie, consuming humorous literature as rapidly as possible. I've read a spectrum including Allen, Waugh, and newcomers such as Helen Fielding. Sedaris has to be one the best storytellers of the distorted family dynamic one could be lucky enough to encounter.
Reviewed by Laura Donnelly on January 22, 2011