Saturday, March 5, 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris

David Sedaris's essays are magic. His unflinchingly honest tales of his personal misadventures shine a light on the human condition. We can all see ourselves in Sedaris's stories of obsession and humiliation.
In "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" we get none of the Sedaris magic. There's not a human in sight. Vignettes are populated solely by animals and, unlike Sedaris's previous books, that resonate with readers by prompting us to think, or ponder life's vagaries, these stories have the feel of etudes -- whimsical exercises in creative writing with no deeper meaning attached. Both in content, and in the way the book failed for me, "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" reminds me of "Blue Beyond Blue," the most recent offering by another of my favorite authors, Lauren Slater. In Slater's earlier work she connected with readers through lightening sharp writing about her fraught relationship with her mother, her mental illness and her work as a psychologist. In "Blue Beyond Blue," though, Slater moves to something new -- a book of her own fairy tales and, in doing so, loses her personal connection with the reader.
"Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" is a collection of fable-like animal stories. The animals are anthropomorphized. They gossip, cheat and misbehave like humans. But within the artifice of these stories something vital is lost; they don't do what Sedaris does best, connect. I love David Sedaris. I'll always love David Sedaris. But I look forward to his next book...which will hopefully be peopled with people.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read any other of Sedaris's books, but I was pretty disappointed by this one. I'm glad to hear that this is not what all his writing is like; I've heard so many good things about him, that it would be a shame to give up on him now. Do you have a suggestion of what I should trying reading next? Does one of his books particularly stand out to you as awesome?