Sunday, February 13, 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris

I needed a laugh.  After Krakauer's murderous Mormons and Selby's junkies, I was ready for a change of tune.

David Sedaris is dependably hilarious.  His writing is funny enough, but hearing him reading his own work in the past, I've embarrassed myself with public laughing attacks.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is his 21st-century version of Aesop's fables.  The title characters are in love, but alas, the chipmunk's meddlesome family members convince her that he is just too damned strange in a bushy-tailed kind of way.  I love the new-age, health-conscious white rat, and the compassionate mouse who "rescues" a baby snake to keep as her pet, and the cat who attends AA meetings to pass the time in prison.

Unlike some of Sedaris' earlier books which were pure comedy (his story of working at Macy's Department Store as a holiday elf named Crumpet comes to mind), these stories have a dark edge.  It's not always comfortable to see the worst aspects of human nature pasted onto animals.  And cute illustrations notwithstanding, this is not a children's book. It is "A Wicked Bestiary" after all.

On one of their dates, the title squirrel remarks that he likes jazz.

"I didn't know that," the chipmunk said. "My goodness, jazz!" She had no idea what jazz was but worried that asking would make her sound stupid. "What kind, exactly?" she asked, hoping his answer might narrow things down a bit.
"Well, all kinds, really," he told her. "Especially the earlier stuff."
"Me too," she said, and when he asked her why, she told him that the later stuff was just too late for her tastes...
The chipmunk lay awake that night, imagining the unpleasantness that was bound to take place the following morning. What if jazz was squirrel slang for something terrible, like anal intercourse? "Oh, I like it too," she'd said -- and so eagerly! Then again, it could just be mildly terrible, something along the lines of Communism or fortune-telling, subjects that were talked about but hardly ever practiced.   

As I read the book in print, I could often hear David Sedaris' voice in my head, but really -- the audio version of the book, with Sedaris among the readers, is the way to go.

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