Thursday, July 12, 2012

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Little, Brown and Company
Released: 2010
159 pages
Buy here.

I've been a fan of Sedaris' writing for quite a few years, but I put off reading his latest book until now.  I remember picking it up at a bookstore right after it came out and immediately putting it back on the shelf when I realized it was a collection of short stories about animals, not the personal essays and memoirs that are the usual Sedaris fare.  I also couldn't justify paying $20+ for a very small hardcover book of not-even-200 pages.  It is now severely discounted at my nearest bookstore, however, so I finally have acquired a copy.  Short stories + large-ish text + lots of illustrations = a quick and easy read.

There are sixteen stories in the collection, all of which feature anthropomorphized animals interacting with one another in very human ways.  The stories actually manage to highlight some of the worst aspects of humanity, so if you're looking for something to cheer you up, steer clear of this (unless you are one to indulge in a whole lot of schadenfreude).  One story that sticks out to me is "The Migrating Warblers," in which husband-and-wife yellow warblers discuss the various difficulties that arise when they migrate to Guatemala every year: the lack of desire on the part of the native birds to learn English, despite the annual influx of migrant American birds; "amusing" lapses in their own Spanish abilities; the "lazy natives."  It's all worth it, though, because it's cheaper than going to Florida!  Another standout for me is "The Sick Rat and the Healthy Rat," which takes place in a cage in a research lab.  The sick rat has been there for quite a while and is literally on the verge of death when a new, healthy rat is introduced to his cage (assumingly his replacement for when he eventually/soon dies).  The healthy rat goes on at great length to explain to the sick rat that his illness is entirely his fault due to his "hatefulness and negativity."  The healthy rat, on the other hand, is never sick because she is able to stay so positive all the time.  She goes on to say that limericks have been attributed to curing certain diseases.  After a hand reaches into the cage and injects the healthy rat with a syringe, the sick rat makes up a limerick of his own in which the reader learns that the healthy rat has just been injected with AIDS.

See what I mean?  Not exactly sunshine and roses, and not even really laugh-out-loud funny.  It is dark, scathing satire, and despite the fact that every single story is full of misery to some degree, I couldn't help but enjoy them because the misery conveyed is so recognizably human.

Rating: 4/5

No comments:

Post a Comment