Excerpt from Calypso by David Sedaris, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Calypso

by David Sedaris

Calypso by David Sedaris X
Calypso by David Sedaris
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  • Published:
    May 2018, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg

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Company Man

Though there's an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you'll acquire a guest room. Some people get one by default when their kids leave home, and others, like me, eventually trade up and land a bigger house. "Follow me," I now say. The room I lead our visitors to has not been hastily rearranged to accommodate them. It does not double as an office or weaving nook but exists for only one purpose. I have furnished it with a bed rather than a fold-out sofa, and against one wall, just like in a hotel, I've placed a luggage rack. The best feature, though, is its private bathroom.

"If you prefer a shower to a tub, I can put you upstairs in the second guest room," I say. "There's a luggage rack up there as well." I hear these words coming from my puppet-lined mouth and shiver with middle-aged satisfaction. Yes, my hair is gray and thinning. Yes, the washer on my penis has worn out, leaving me to dribble urine long after I've zipped my trousers back up. But I have two guest rooms.

The consequence is that if you live in Europe, they attract guests—lots of them. People spend a fortune on their plane tickets from the United States. By the time they arrive they're broke and tired and would probably sleep in our car if we offered it. In Normandy, where we used to have a country place, any visitors were put up in the attic, which doubled as Hugh's studio and smelled of oil paint and decaying mice. It had a rustic cathedral ceiling but no heat, meaning it was usually either too cold or too hot. That house had only one bathroom, wedged between the kitchen and our bedroom. Guests were denied the privacy a person sometimes needs on the toilet, so twice a day I'd take Hugh to the front door and shout behind us, as if this were normal behavior, "We're going out for exactly twenty minutes. Does anyone need anything from the side of the road?"

That was another problem with Normandy: there was nothing for our company to do except sit around. Our village had no businesses in it and the walk to the nearest village that did was not terribly pleasant. This is not to say that our visitors didn't enjoy themselves—just that it took a certain kind of person, outdoorsy and self-motivating. In West Sussex, where we currently live, having company is a bit easier. Within a ten-mile radius of our house, there's a quaint little town with a castle in it and an equally charming one with thirty-seven antique stores. There are chalk-speckled hills one can hike up, and bike trails. It's a fifteen-minute drive to the beach and an easy walk to the nearest pub.

Guests usually take the train from London, and before we pick them up at the station I remind Hugh that, for the duration of their visit, he and I will be playing the role of a perfect couple. This means no bickering and no contradicting each other. If I am seated at the kitchen table and he is standing behind me, he is to place a hand on my shoulder, right on the spot where a parrot would perch if I were a pirate instead of the ideal boyfriend. When I tell a story he has heard so often he could lip-synch it, he is to pretend to be hearing it for the first time and to be appreciating it as much as or more than our guests are. I'm to do the same, and to feign delight when he serves something I hate, like fish with little bones in it. I really blew this a few years back when his friend Sue came for the night and he poached what might as well have been a hairbrush. Blew it to such an extent that after she left I considered having her killed. "She knows too much," I said to Hugh. "The woman's a liability now and we need to contain her."

His friend Jane saw some ugliness as well, and though I like both her and Sue and have known them for going on twenty years, they fall under the category of "Hugh's guests." This means that though I play my role, it is not my responsibility to entertain them. Yes, I offer the occasional drink. I show up for meals but can otherwise come and go at my leisure, exiting, sometimes, as someone is in the middle of a sentence. My father has done this all his life. You'll be talking to him and he'll walk away—not angry but just sort of finished with you. I was probably six years old the first time I noticed this. You'd think I'd have found it hurtful, but instead I looked at his retreating back, thinking, We can get away with that? Really? Yippee!

Excerpted from Calypso by David Sedaris. Copyright © 2018 by David Sedaris. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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