Monday, February 28, 2011

Reader Seeks Comprehension

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!


i am ginger said...

It was a satire on human behavior at its worst. These animals were behaving and saying how most people want to behave or do think. I thought it was brilliant in its simplicity and reminded me of Orwell's Animal Farm. I've never read Sedaris before though, so I have no comparison like you for his work.
I won't say anything else because I still have to write my review where I will say the same thing. :)
Did you leave your link on the book club page?

#1Nana said...

Sedaris is my favorite author. In fact, I'm flying to Texas in April to attend a reading. This will be the third year that my daughter and I have attended. When I read his storied I can hear his high pitched voice in my head. Okay, that being said, I haven't been able to finish this book. It doesn't hold my interest. I haven't figured out if it is because of the content or because it is the first book I've tried reading on kindle.

Rosebud Collection said...

Never read anything by Sedaris..but Jenn, my reading is very limited..mostly light mysteries or a Maeve Binchy here and there. At least you are doing something positive, during this weather..
You are so sweet to offer us to visit..Bless you..I am so happy you are heading out of here. This climate is very depressing..I know for the both of us, this has been a rough winter..We still have snow banks so high, I hope they will melt by summer. What a winter this has been. It really bothered me this year..Well my dear friend..have a great rest of the week..You think Mercury is bad..well Uranus is going into Aries the 10th..and we have a full moon on the way..haha..The way I see it, it should be quite the ride. xoxoRosebud/Carolyn

Almost Precious said...

Hm, I'm not sure if I'd want to read this book or not. Sounds like it is not quite Aesop's Fables. Other than that I haven't much to say, unless I read the book...which of course I'm now debating if I'd want to or not. :D

Bridgete said...

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I got it, but I didn't *get* it. I could tell it was what Ginger said above, a satire on human behavior at its worst, but it just didn't work for me. For the most part, while I could have probably figured out the "moral" if I thought about it, I generally just responded to each story with, "That's disturbing. Moving on..." And I've read Sedaris before, it's very different from his usual style. Most of the books are what you thought -- humorous accounts of his own life experiences. Anyway...I'm glad someone else felt the same as I did.

Anonymous said...

A few months ago, a friend gave me Holidays on Ice. Essays about Christmas. A few made me laugh, and a few I didn't quite know what to think.

Suldog said...

I enjoyed it immensely. I didn't worry about messages or anything else. Like most of Sedaris's work, I just let the humor come to me, and I laughed. I think it's as simple as that. It's only supposed to be funny. And, of course, humor is always subjective, so if you don't get it, you don't get it. Nothing wrong with that. But, as I say, I liked it, a lot.