If my teacher had chosen any other essay from Me Talk Pretty One Day, chances are the name David Sedaris means nothing to me today. He had to go and pick “Big Boy” to read to us as one of his sample essays. Better known, to me, as the sole essay worth reading from the book in question. Length must’ve factored heavily into his decision, which is to say I can’t recall one shorter. I remember it seeming a great deal longer read aloud. Reading it myself, it didn’t even reach the length of your average pop song. Still, it was enough inspiration to keep me plugging away until I reached the end, nineteen supremely forgettable essays later. Were I given the ability to time travel, I dare say that removing “Big Boy” from the book altogether would make my to-do list. One way or another, it would cut back on wasted time. In one scenario, my teacher’s alternate choice tells me what it took me four books figure out, that Sedaris’ style of humor just doesn’t do it for me, resulting in me no longer feeling compelled to buy When You Are Engulfed in Flames, thus never moving on to his other books. In the second scenario, I still dumbly plop down the cash for that fluke of his, as well as continue on to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Barrel Fever, but can no longer make it the whole way through Me Talk Pretty One Day.
Maybe the glimmer of promise his essays all seem to contain would still have carried me through till the end. With my penchant for giving people more chances than I rightly should, I won’t argue it’s not a possibility. At worst, though, Me Talk Pretty One Day would, I hope, be Sedaris’ last chance in this alternate timeline, as that’s precisely what it is in this timeline. I’ve flipped through other books of his to get a grip on how universal this inability to make me laugh was, and I’ve found it’s pretty damn universal. His career, to me, is Me Talk Pretty One Day on a grander scale. Each essay, just about, has that aforementioned “glimmer of promise” (ex. “When shit brings you down, just say ‘fuck it’, and eat yourself some motherfucking candy.”), and occasionally it becomes more than that, Sedaris turning out something strong enough to give you false hope (ex. “Big Boy,” When You Are Engulfed in Flames), yet there’s only disappointment to be had in the long run. And I am fed up with feeling disappointed when I realize I should know better by now. So, unless he does something drastic to earn my forgiveness, I’m retiring Sedaris from my reading list, and not even my completionist’s streak will change that.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.