Herein lies my review of the latest Book Club selection Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris. So basically if you haven’t finished it for Book Club yet, haven’t joined Book Club yet (Why on Earth wouldn’t you?! We’re super fun & laid back so it’s highly recommended that you do…but I digress…), or just plain haven’t finished this book for other reasons, stop reading this now because there will likely be spoilers throughout…
Okay, and now onto the review!
Right off the bat I can’t help but say, um, sorry but I don’t get it. I mean, I get it, all these moral and social lessons tossed at us through the interpretations of how specific animals might exist in a world that contains human-esque concerns, but I’m not really sure what its supposed to say. Is it supposed to say anything?
Maybe the best question is -- does a book have to speak to you for you to enjoy it? For me the black or white yes or no was definitely challenged by this collection of short beastly tales.
Generally speaking, I have to feel like the central characters, at least one or two of them in a collection of shorts like this, resonate with me in some way so I can feel a connection and take comfort in the end of the story (be it a happy or sad ending). I like to feel like I understand just where they are coming from. But in each short here, Sedaris tends to place the greatest emphasis on the “evil” or “rotten” characters and/or their traits so then through his twist of sarcastic phrasing we are to take the moral of the story from what that character didn’t say or do. So although I really enjoyed his ability to apply human qualities to the animals in question, I really didn’t like any of them.
In fact, I may never see an Irish setter or a gerbil the same way again. Not to mention a rabbit.
Because there was no moral message at the end of each story other than the one the reader could infer in their own way, these really weren’t fables but with only a couple humans even mentioned in the book they sure could fall in that category, loosely at best.
Although there was a level of fantasy inherent in that animals don’t talk or experience human issues, I only recall reading about one creature pulled purely from fantasy -- a unicorn. That kind of made me think these weren’t outright fairy tales either, just tales.
Disturbing, freakish, animal to represent human, tales.
I guess the reason I say I don’t get it is because I kind of always considered Sedaris more of a non-fiction writer. Am I wrong there? I thought most of his books were about his life and situations he was in growing up, so this one kind of took me aback. The writing was good though and he subtly wove some comic relief in throughout each story, usually through devices of sarcasm. Which was good because some of those illustrations were just downright disturbing and anything to break them up was a welcomed respite.
I finished it simply because it took me no more than about two full hours over 2 separate sittings to do so. Nothing wrong with a fast read but I just don’t feel particularly enriched for having gotten through the whole thing. Then again, it wasn’t an all out bad book either. Not by any means.
So you see why I say ‘I don’t get it’?
The pace was quick and I enjoyed the twists and turns within the stories so I’m likely to pick up more of his work to give it the old college try. I guess in my final assessment of “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” I’d have to say well written short stories overall, well developed characters through the dialogue, good details in the narrative, nightmare-inspiring artwork, and I’m not running out to pick up my own copy anytime soon.
Have you read it and just want to weigh in on the topic? Come on over and leave a comment on the Book Club Page!