Listening to David Sedaris (Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and Naked)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


This summer, I was on the lookout for audiobooks to listen to during the few road trips I had planned, when I finally decided to listen to David Sedaris' titles. Although I had a print copy of his Naked on my shelf, which I started reading sometime last year, I couldn't appreciate his self-deprecating humor too well then. I had also heard it told that Sedaris' books are best appreciated on audio than while reading, and after listening to two of his books - Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and Naked - I have to agree.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk was his first title that I listened to. That was the shortest audio my library had of his and since my drive wasn't going to be too long, I wanted to be done with the book before I reached my destination. In retrospect, this probably wasn't the best decision I made, because from what other readers told me, it wasn't his typical fare, and I didn't enjoy it too well either. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk contains several fables from the animal kingdom - most of which are very dark tales and typically ended in tragedy or cold humor.

As it has been a while since I listened to this book, I don't remember the specific details of some of the stories, but I do remember enjoying the first story very well. The stories following that got progressively depressing, so towards the end of each story, I braced for a potential macabre twist. One thing I did enjoy about most of the stories was that many of them drew parallels with the real world human situation. One of the stories tackled racism, yet another one talked about bureaucracy, a third one about sitting through mandatory AA meetings. But some were pretty morbid too, and I won't go into any detail on that. Suffice it to say that I needed to roll down my windows occasionally to let in some air. On the whole, I did enjoy some of the stories, while others were a letdown.

For another ride, I picked Naked, hoping it was as different as possible from Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. While the latter was fiction, Naked is a nonfiction account of some events from David Sedaris' life. All his stories are underlined by a self-deprecating humor that, if you read at the right moment, you can't help but laugh at. Like with most books of essays/stories, there were some I liked more than others. My favorite was the last story - which is also titled Naked - and recounts the author's experiences staying in a nudist colony - a place where the visitors do everything naked, that is everything they would do at a resort - play outdoor games, swim, relax in a jacuzzi or even go for a stroll.

I enjoyed Naked a lot more than Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. The stories are funny, even when they are not meant to be. He manages to lace even his disappointing or sad experiences with humor so although I felt sad for him, I loved how he looked at them. I liked his perspective on a wide variety of topics, including his own family. His stories about his obsessive-compulsive behavior, his gay orientation, his sarcastic mother (who I loved!), his crazy grandmother, and his strange wonderful family. This collection was definitely ride-worthy, and I'm looking forward to listening to another David Sedaris soon.

I borrowed both audiobooks from my library.

16 comments:

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I've listened to or read quite a few of Sedaris's books and agree with you that the essays he's written from his personal life are far superior to Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.  I haven't read Naked, but the nudist colony essay sounds hilarious.

zibilee said...

I love David Sedaris, and have read or listened to everything except Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, which I have also heard is very different than his other work. If you want to listen to a really excellent book by Sedaris, go for Me Talk Pretty One Day. It's hilarious all the way through, but there are some touches of humility in it as well. Great thoughts on these books, Aths! I enjoyed reading your perspective!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review. I've never considered listening to these. Great idea.

Helen Murdoch said...

My favorite David Sedaris is Me Talk Pretty One Day; I found it really funny. I also love his NPR piece on being an elf at a Macy's at Christmas!

Athira / Aths said...

I can't wait to listen to his other essays. He definitely makes his essays sound so much funnier.

Athira / Aths said...

Me talk pretty one day is on my wishlist. Can't wait to check that one out. Glad to hear that you are a fan of Sedaris!

Athira / Aths said...

You should. They are hilarious!

Athira / Aths said...

I need to listen to that Macy piece! Also, Me Talk Pretty One Day is on my wishlist. Sad that my library doesn't have its audio.

Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness said...

I love David Sedaris, but I think he's much better on audio than in print -- he does a great job of reading his own work. 

Athira / Aths said...

I'm so glad that I decided to listen to him on audio than read his books. His stories are definitely wonderful to listen to.

Booklineandsinker said...

i've read all of sedaris's works but never gave them a listen--strange, because i'm a big audiobook junkie.  i'm sure that listening to david read his own work is even better than reading it because he'll emphasis what he intended to emphasize, etc.  

Lena said...

I don't listen to a lot of audio books. Rarely actually. I hadn't heard of the Squirrels book. I have heard of Naked. I likely won't listen to neither but atleast now I have an idea of what they are about. I do buy audio books as gifts though, some people really enjoy them. I am too hyper to listen and do nothing else. I would start multitasking in a heartbeat.

Athira / Aths said...

For me, listening to his works worked better. I didn't find reading his books that intriguing. But I loved listening to them.

Athira / Aths said...

Audio books didn't work for me for a long time. But I found that I could listen to some kinds of books without feeling annoyed. Such as YA, humor, etc.

Shelleyrae @ Bookd Out said...

Sounds like fun reading!

Athira / Aths said...

Thanks!