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BookBrowse Reviews Calypso by David Sedaris

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by David Sedaris

Calypso by David Sedaris X
Calypso by David Sedaris
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2018, 288 pages
    Jun 2019, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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About this Book



Calypso is simultaneously Sedaris's darkest and warmest book yet.

David Sedaris' Calypso is every bit as hilarious and irreverent, as clever and incisive, as brilliant and entertaining as he has ever been. Whether you're a long-time resident or a brand new visitor to the land of Sedaris, you are sure to enjoy the ride.

As are all other David Sedaris books, Calypso is a collection of humorous essays, focusing mostly on the lovably eccentric Sedaris family and David's long-term relationship with his partner, Hugh. Occasionally, the essays extend into the world beyond this tightly-knit circle, touching on current events or the weirdness of the world at large.

Perhaps the most refreshing quality in these essays is their complete lack of formula. Each story begins in one place, meanders in every possible direction, and then, miraculously finds its way back. It may not be clear, at first, how playing a board game with one's niece may relate to illegally removing a tumor and feeding it to a snapping turtle, or how either of those connect to the struggles of melding two very different families, yet all of this comes seamlessly together in the essay "Sorry." It is impossible to predict where Sedaris will take you, but that is entirely part of the fun.

Beyond their structure, these stories are just plain entertaining to read. Although never quite crossing into vulgar territory, Sedaris does, on occasion, go beyond what is comfortable. If there's a weird question waiting to be asked, Sedaris will ask it; if there's a strange compulsion that can be pushed to new levels, Sedaris will push it. This is the guy who walks 30 miles every day, just to satisfy his demanding FitBit, and unabashedly inquires into the worst curse words of each nation he visits.

Despite their frequently caustic tone, there is something vulnerable about these essays and the man who writes them. No one would go as far as calling Sedaris sentimental, but it is clear that the threads of feeling run deeply through each story. Talking about his sister's suicide (See Beyond the Book) or his mother's alcoholism, Sedaris steers clear of regrets, yet his simple, direct prose feels more powerful, and packs a far more effective emotional punch, than any melodramatic soliloquy could.

There are very few weak notes in Calypso. It is perfectly satisfying in every way – at once a glimpse into the zany world of the Sedaris clan, a meditation on the comforts and concerns of middle age, and a commentary on the strangeness of social norms. This is a collection worth savoring, again and again.

Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in June 2018, and has been updated for the July 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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