Even though I own several David Sedaris books, Calypso is the first time I’ve read a full length book by Sedaris. I’ve heard bits and pieces from his work, and always thought it to be hilarious, but I didn’t know if his tone of biting sarcasm would bother me in a full length work. I ordered Calypso as part of my Book of the Month subscription in June, and I just kind of left it in my to-be-read stack for months. Never was there a good time to just pick it up. (Now, I have to be honest and admit that my TBR stack contains around 600 books, not counting the ones waiting for me on my kindle, so it’s not unusual for me to take a while to “get around to” reading something on my stack.)
Calypso contains the reflections of a middle-aged Sedaris on aging and family. He waxes bittersweet when discussing his sister Tiffany and her suicide. He is warm and ambivalent when discussing his mother’s alcoholism and a deeply complicated relationship with his father. He is warm and funny while talking about his relationship with his long-term partner and with his sisters, and even while talking about animals that he has grown fun of. Then, there are the times when he is laugh-out-loud funny. I may have laughed aloud more reading this book than I have reading a book in a very long time.
There were several things that I pondered long after putting down the book, and I thought I would share them. Then, I would love to hear your favorite notes and quotes from Calypso in the comments.
The first quote is set during a plane ride. There was an announcement about someone’s achievement or birthday or something over the PA, and no one clapped or celebrated. A woman calls them names and tells them they should cheer. Sedaris feels judged, and he says:
It’s so funny to be called an asshole by someone who doesn’t know you, but then again knows you so perfectly. (53)
He gets it. He found it humorous that this person who did not know him or the other passengers would dare to say this of them. It was even funnier for him to realize that she was right. I can relate to this because I sometimes find myself insulted by people who do not really understand me, but upon further reflection, I find that they characterize my actions better (or perhaps sometimes worse) than I thought.
Sedaris attempts to explain this incident to his partner Hugh, along with his rationalizations for why he did not cheer for the girl, only to find that Hugh frowns at him and tells him that he should have cheered. My partner would do the same to me, so when I read this, I found myself laughing out loud. And I also found myself realizing that I sometimes can be an “asshole.” Just throwing that out there.
Shopping as a Hobby
Sedaris spends the majority of one of his essays discussing shopping in Tokyo with his sisters. He talks about shopping as a family thing, where when they visit a place, they are much more likely to check the stores out than see the sights. I like to see the sights, but I love to go shopping too. In fact, shopping can be the most interesting part of a trip, depending on what we’re doing. I often say that I’m not much of a shopper, but in reality, that is often because I do much of my shopping online.
Sometimes I feel guilty about shopping because I know we’d have more money if I didn’t click buy as often as I do. However, it’s one of life’s purer pleasures for me, especially when it is a new book, some pretty post-its or a nice pen. So I found myself truly relating to this quote.
Shopping has nothing to do with money. If you have it, you go to stores and galleries, and if not, you haunt flea markets or Goodwills. (72)
As I might spend a lot of time browsing the clearance bookcases at my local 2nd and Charles and might daily check two or three people’s curated Amazon kindle deal lists, I can confess that I totally get this quote.
Sometimes I struggle to make conversation with people. I tend to find small talk meaningless. It has been pointed out to me that it makes me a little standoffish, but honestly, I just don’t know what to say. So, I appreciated this quote from Sedaris:
The fact is that, unless we’re with friends or family, we’re all like talking dolls, endlessly repeating the same trite and tiresome lines: “Hello, how are you?” “Hot enough out there?” “Don’t work too hard.” (96)
Truth. Am I right here?
There were many more gems from Sedaris, but these three were the ones that made me stop and get out my notebook to take them down. Have you guys read Calypso? What are your favorite parts and quotes? Do you prefer Sedaris poignant or wickedly funny?