Renowned comedian David Sedaris, author of Naked (1997) and Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), is back and better than ever in Calypso, his humorous and heartfelt memoir published in 2018.
What truly sets Calypso apart from so many memoirs on the market today, be they comedic or agonizingly serious, is that his story and the humour with which he approaches it are both utterly relatable. So many writers these days like to pride themselves upon how “relatable” their books are, whilst they try to humbly recount the events that led to their tremendous success, but not Sedaris; no, no, no – not Sedaris. Sedaris does not try to be humble, nor does he try to be relatable – he just is relatable, and such is a deliciously rare feat.
The story that Sedaris tells in Calypso feels real in a way that many memoirs do not, for he doesn’t try to sugarcoat his life story nor its storyteller. He isn’t afraid to be proud, made clear as early as the second chapter when he describes his intention to use his acquired wealth to buy his family a beach house that “would be everyone’s, as long as they followed my draconian rules and never stopped thanking me for it.” While very few people would admit to it, we all want to be the family success story; we all want to be the relative with money who buys the best presents and plans the best vacations. Sedaris doesn’t just admit it; he owns it. He wears his pride on his sleeve in a way which is witty and honest and absolutely admirable. I wish that I had the guts to be even half as honest in my life as Sedaris is within a single chapter of Calypso.
More relatable still is that he does not attempt to portray himself as some sort of creative genius. Sedaris, like all of us writers out there, is not immune to the fatal disease that is Google Procrastination – better known as that moment when you tell yourself that you’re going to write, sit down at your computer, and instead end up Googling what Oscar Wilde’s favourite flower was – or, in Sedaris’s case, Googling “what Russell Crowe is up to.” While these seem like very important questions at the time, they rarely contribute anything of use to the writing process – and it’s a dirty secret that Sedaris openly owns up to. I for one am extremely grateful that he’s so open about falling down the Google rabbit hole – because if he can dig himself out and churn out a memoir as intensely funny and absorbing as Calypso, then surely there is hope for all of us who suffer from Google Procrastination. Maybe it’s not so fatal, after all.
While David Sedaris may be “bonsai-sized” (yet another quirk that my 5’1 self can relate to immensely), his vibrant and laugh-out-loud storytelling is larger than life. He reminds readers that it’s okay to be human. After all, none of us are perfect, even if we want our social media profiles and Fitbit statistics to brag otherwise. We all fight with the people we love, break with and reunite with our families, and make less-than-ideal purchases whilst travelling that we inevitably end up regretting, but which make for a great story years down the road.
Richly truthful and beautifully penned, Calypso comes highly recommended by this particular reader. Whether it is your first foray into Sedaris’s writing or if you have been a fan for years, you won’t be able to put this book down. Who knows? His witty honesty may even rub off on you and change your outlook on life for the better.
Want to see David Sedaris live? Now’s your chance! The Lorenzo Society is partnering with Indigo (East Point), the Saint John Free Public Library, and the Offline Board Game Cafe to bring Sedaris to Saint John. On August 7th, he will be performing and reading from Calypso at the Dennis Knibb Auditorium at 7:00 PM. For more information on the event and how to get tickets, check out the event page on Facebook.