Review of ‘Calypso’ by David Sedaris

A weird and wonderful collection of autobiographical essays. I had been meaning to read something by David Sedaris for a while, so I was happy to find this book in the library.

It’s kind of a difficult book to review, as the pieces were mainly published elsewhere before being collected here so they don’t form a linear narrative. However, they have been carefully put together so that you’re introduced to the people involved early on and feel like you know them as the book progresses. The writing is generally about David’s eccentric personality, his siblings, parents, boyfriend Hugh and the differences between living in the US and UK.

Apparently the writing is very funny indeed, going by the endorsements. I only found it intermittently hilarious and actually it’s quite sad, dealing with themes such as bereavement, suicide, ageing and alcoholism. Always guaranteed to be sharply observed, with interesting turns of phrase and quirkiness. He and some of his siblings have an obsession with bodies and the things that come out of them, so it does get a bit gross sometimes.

I generally found the book very readable and memorable. Towards the end of the essays I became tired of them not building up to a significant conclusion, as would usually happen in other books, fiction or non-fiction. This left me feeling a little dissatisfied.

I’d consider reading another of David Sedaris’ collections but maybe not for a while.

First published in 2018.

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