Me Talk Pretty One Day
By David Sedaris
Reviewed by Olivia Manno
Almost every teenager has experienced an embarrassing situation at one point during their life. Whether it be their ignominious parents, with the outdated looks they sport and the cringeworthy phrases that escape their mouths, usually in a lamentable attempt to fit in with their child and his/her generation, or the day at lunch when a teenager loses their footing on the packet of mayonnaise that had been on the cafeteria floor, these things usually cause unbearable humiliation. However, any individual who has ever experienced such a dilemma has been completely outdone by the droll, lovable David Sedaris. The renowned author of a number of memoirs, one of his most accomplished, entitled "Me Talk Pretty One Day", is filled with side-splitting essays, reminiscing about much of Sedaris's unusual childhood, years in various colleges, ridiculous experiments with a number of illegal substances, and adventures in Paris, France. Dry is an understatement for his unique sense of humor. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" displays Sedaris's true talent of voice. The book would be very enjoyable without his humorous touches, but when garnished with the correct adjectives, Sedaris's "half empty" outlook, with a heavy dash of sarcasm, is completely contagious.
The book itself has an easy, flowing format, with many essays arranged into chronological order. One who hasn't read Sedaris's writing may pick up a copy, thinking that the majority of these works have some significance in the author's life, but when reading, the person will realize that the pieces are of no importance whatsoever. Sedaris seemed to collect random memories that stuck out in his mind and connect them somehow. The opening essay, entitled "Go Carolina," is completely farcical, the first sentence enticing the reader from the start. Sedaris recalls the moment he was confronted about his prominent lisp by a woman whom he had mistaken for a detective. She asked whether he preferred State or Carolina, two of the major football teams at the time. Sedaris had thought it was a trap, and chose State, his lisp making an appearance. The book continues on with many unbelievable tales, including a period of Sedaris's life when he struggled with drug addiction and the pathetic salary of a freelance artist.
As his life becomes more stable, Sedaris begins to experience more ordinary, yet equally funny incidents. The second half of "Me Talk Pretty One Day" includes many of these happenings, and focuses mostly on Sedaris's big move to France, as well as certain things prior to the event. He had enrolled in a French class, and the essay, "Me Talk Pretty One Day," was the inspiration for the title of the book. Sedaris experienced a rude, blunt teacher ("'I hate you,' she said to me one afternoon. Her English was flawless. "I really, really hate you." Call me sensitive, but I really couldn't help but take it personally.") as well as many unenthusiastic classmates. Sedaris experienced various highs and lows during the class, but the outcome contributed to possibly one of the most entertaining pieces in the collection.
Writing comedy is not necessarily a talent that develops over time. If one is lucky enough, they will be blessed with a gift like Sedaris's, whose uproarious childhood and earlier years create brilliant stories. His unmistakeable voice takes the genre to a whole new level, and is guaranteed to please even the most finicky of readers.