The O-town Scene

October 14, 2010

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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Book Talk with Anne Van Deusen POPEKS USED AND RARE BOOKS “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” by David Sedaris Yesterday, I had a chance to sit down with David Se- daris to discuss his new book “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.” Okay, so maybe I didn’t actually sit down with David Sedaris. I’ve just always wanted to say that. As for “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” ... Last year a friend of mine recommended “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” and I immediately became a David Sedaris fan. I read mostly serious stuff because I’m a book snob so this was a nice break. In fact, I can’t recall ever having such an out- wardly emo- tional reaction to the written word like I did with “Dress Your Family.” I’m talk- ing face-distorting, take-no-prisoners, hysterical laughter. The only other time I remember reacting that emotionally about a book was on the subway in Boston while reading “The Prince of Tides.” That time I had to be escorted out of the car in tears. Back to “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.” If you haven’t guessed, I’ve been putting off expressing my opinion be- cause I was truly disappoint- ed and I feel bad about it. With his new book, Sedaris has departed from his usual repertoire and has written what is called a “bestiary.” For those of you who are un- familiar with the term, a bestiary is a collec- tion of descrip- tions or stories about real or imaginary animals. Usually the stories are accompanied by a moral lesson – like a fable. But here is where Sedaris parts ways with the likes of Aesop. Obviously, moral stories have a negative side to them, thus the point of teaching a lesson. But here’s the thing, Sedaris has chosen to imbue his animals with such dark, violent, often sadistic behav- ior, that the overall tone of a lot of the stories seem to be of one of hopelessness, depravity, and total degrada- tion. Not so funny. Not even slightly amusing. If I was a cow (“The Cow and the Turkey”) or a brown rabbit (“The Vigilant Rabbit) I’d be knocking on his door. All is not quite lost, though. While I found most of the stories void of humor, I did find several that rang of the old Sedaris style. If I had to choose, I would say “The Toad, The Turtle, and the Duck” was my favorite. Here Sedaris describes the frustration of standing in a complaint line. It was a little lighter than the others and quite funny. In “The Griev- ing Owl,” I found the much missed, poignant voice of Sedaris discussing unlikely friendships. In an NPR interview last week, Sedaris said that if the stories had been about people, the violence would have been over the top. But the fact is, these stories do portray human behavior. Animals don’t think and react like the brown rabbit in “The Vigilant Rabbit” as he beats a variety of woodland ani- mals to a bloody death with a stick for trespassing. As for the cow in “The Cow and the Turkey,” remind me not to get involved in any office secret Santa schemes this holiday season. Anne Van Deusen is the Children’s Book Buyer at the Green Toad Bookstore at 198 Main St. in Oneonta. Want to write for the O-town Scene? Great! E-mail Cassandra at 8 O-Town Scene Oct. 14, 2010

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