Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

Normally, I'm a big fan of David Sedaris's work, but I'm growing more and more worried that he's tapped out his abundance of ridiculous family-related stories and, thus, has lost some of his ability to make me laugh out loud while simply retaining small chuckle inducing capabilities. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is his latest endeavor, which veers completely away from his habit of producing semi-personal anecdotes and instead focuses on his keen observational skills. This interesting little collection of short stories feature talking animals, interacting just like humans who seem beastly in light of such a comparison, but I wasn't really all that delighted with the whole.

I had heard of David Sedaris for a little while before I actually read any of his writing. He came to read at my college (which was an incredibly well-attended event) and when he signed my book, he wrote, "so nice to finally meet you!" It's pretty easy to gobble up his stories, but I tried to go slowly. I think my favorite piece (which still has me gasping for breath each time I read it, I'm laughing so hard) is "Six to Eight Black Men" about various Christmas traditions across the world, though a close runner-up is "Repeat After Me," which is incredibly touching as well as funny. There are so many stories, though, that stick in my mind, and so I'm usually one to chat up just how wonderful a writer Sedaris can be. I was a little disappointed by When You Are Engulfed In Flames, but chalked it up to the fact that Sedaris has practically settled down into a quieter life -- which makes for less funny antics even if his keen insight is as sharp as ever. So now we have Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and I'm fairly certain that this is his attempt at producing something that has nothing to do with any vaguely personal story... and I find myself wishing I had just spent the time re-reading one of his earlier works.

The general idea is that Sedaris took animals and put them in very human situations that seem to highlight just how dreadful human actions can be by assigning them to animals. The first story was my favorite, I think -- a cat and a baboon at a hair salon, the baboon grooming the vain cat and them gossiping about others. Irritatingly, though, I read this story in the bookstore and so started to look forward to everything, and then wound up a bit disappointed. Other stories tackle single observations or issues. There's a couple of birds recounting a not-very-funny experience from their travels which paints them in a rather racist light. A squirrel and a chipmunk date until they run out of things to say, but when the unsuitable relationship is forcibly ended by the chipmunk's family, she always thinks rather fondly of that romance. An Irish Setter discusses his marital problems and infidelities, wishing that he might seek out another mate but ultimately returning to his mixed-breed wife. A healthy rat blames a sick rat for his own illness by suggesting he's not being positive enough, then gets injected with AIDS. A self-righteous stork rants to her baby (because your kids are always an appropriate audience for your adult issues) about another stork's parenting skills, which only emphasizes how the self-righteous stork is neglecting her own baby.

The observations on the terrible things that humans do in every-day interactions are clever, but I just suppose I didn't need this to be an entire book. It felt like it dragged on and yes, Sedaris is smart in linking things together, but it means things are somewhat one-note. The concept is a bit strange to start with and things continue to be strange. In a usual Sedaris story, there's some progression and often some kind of conclusion... but here, I feel as though a single, somewhat sad observation was made on humanity each time and simply left there. It's not that I need my humor to be light and fluffy, but I would prefer some variation in tone. This is probably my least favorite Sedaris book. Had it been written by someone else, I might not be so harsh on it, but I expect great things from David Sedaris and this just feels like a let-down.

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