Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Quick Pick Book Review: Happy-Go-Lucky, by David Sedaris

  • Opening lines: It was spring and my sister Lisa and I were in her toy-sized car, riding from the airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, to her house in Winston-Salem. I'd gotten up early to catch my flight from Raleigh, but still she had me beat by an hour. "I like to be at Starbucks right when they open, at five a.m.," she said. "Speaking of which, I was there a few months ago and saw a lady with a monkey. I don't know what kind, but it was small—not much bigger than a doll—and was in a pink frilly dress. And it was just so ... upsetting to me. I wanted to go up to this woman and ask, 'What do you plan on doing with that thing once you lose interest in it?'"
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge fan of David Sedaris's books, and I've actually seen him at readings a few times, as well.
  • And what's this book about?
    David Sedaris, the “champion storyteller,” (Los Angeles Times) returns with his first new collection of personal essays since the bestselling Calypso.

    Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As
    Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

    But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

    As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

    Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys non-fiction, memoirs, or other Sedaris books.
  • Favorite paragraph: I decided from the start of the pandemic not to get Zoom. "What do you mean, 'get' it?" Hugh asked. "It's nothing you have to buy or attach to your computer. You press a button and, wham, it's there.

    "Well, can you mark which button?" I asked. "I want to make sure I never push it."
  • Something to know: David Sedaris is the only nonfiction storyteller who can consistently make me laugh with his books. I recommend this novel if you enjoy humorous slice-of-life stories.
  • What I would have changed: I found the first few stories to be a little slow-paced, but I enjoyed the second half of the book more.
  • Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon—today (Prime Day, 7/13/22) the Kindle version is on sale for 48% off, and the hardcover version is on sale for 39% off.


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