Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

This was the first David Sedaris book I've ever read. I had heard that he was, um... quirky, but jeez.

I recognize that not all authors appeal to everyone, and that a reader might not love every single thing an author has to offer, but I wish I hadn't chosen this Sedaris offering first because I'm now a little nervous about sampling his other works. I read this because his writing has been praised, but I can't pretend that I liked this one just to be cool.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a collection of short stories with animal protagonists, living human-type lives and dealing with human-type problems. Thank God the stories were short, because I don't know that I could have read more than a few pages of his prose.

Each story was weird. Each was equally depressing. I totally get that Sedaris was making observations about the human condition, and in a way, the stories were quite reminiscent of Aesop, but sweet God, man - did you have to be so disgusting?

The story that stuck with me most featured a crow talking to a ewe about child-rearing. The crow seems to be enthralled with the ewe's lamb and how content it seems to suckle from its mother. The crow commiserates with the ewe about children and how difficult it is to relax when one is so consumed by motherly love and that damn protective instinct. The crow talks about how she meditates to relax, convinces the ewe to do the same, and while the ewe is experiencing another plane of existence, the crow pecks out the eyes of the lamb in order to feed her own babies.

What. The. Hell.

Again, allegories. I KNOW. I get it. But it doesn't mean that I have to enjoy it.

The illustrations are by Ian Falconer, of the famed Olivia books. The drawings are an amazing addition, and as weird as some are (there is one of a hippo's anus), they really do make the book whole. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is an imaginative, interesting, intentionally creepy (?), brilliant work. And I hated it.


JLR said...

I'm assuming you've heard him on This American Life? He has read a lot of the stuff he's written on that show. I loved Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Here are three of my favorite of his stories:

"Santa Claus Vs. The Easter Bunny" from episode 148, The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Suit (reading from Me Talk Pretty One Day).

"Don't They Know It's Christmas After All." from episode 201, Them. (reading a story he wrote for, I think, Esquire magazine)

"Accidental Deception" from episode 173, Three Kinds of Deception.
(Reading from Me Talk Pretty One Day)

Heather said...

jlr - THANK YOU. I was hoping that someone would tell me that his other stuff is better/different. And though I've never heard him on the radio, I will definitely check out those links. You are the awesome.

Anonymous said...

You have to hear him perform!! He is amazing live! he was at Hill2 weeks ago and I died laughing. A lot of his work it too out there to read, but Me Talk Pretty One Day is a great introduction to his work.

Heather said...

anon - Yes, and that's on my long list of books to read. It's just a matter of getting to it, really.