A quick look at recent releases: "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls," by David Sedaris, and "The Miniature Wife," by Manuel Gonzales.
LET’S EXPLORE DIABETES WITH OWLS
By David Sedaris (Little Brown, 275 pages, $27)
When it comes to being mightily and merrily annoyed, David Sedaris wrote the book. Or books. In his eighth collection of humorous essays, Sedaris is often ticked off, but he’s always willing to complicate matters by seeing the other side, or acknowledging how annoying he himself may be to others.
Among things that bother him are the way Americans dress for plane travel, garbage tossers, those who chatter obliviously at a service counter while people line up behind them. No sooner does Sedaris mentally condemn the teenager in line with a cigarette, wearing an obscene T-shirt and holding his newborn, than a snobby woman condemns the knucklehead, forcing Sedaris to change his mind. “The kid may have looked like a Dr. Seuss character, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t love his baby, a baby, I told myself, who just might grow up to be a Supreme Court justice.”
Sedaris deftly limns the hilarious absurdity of life in France, life in England (where he moved a few years ago), keeping a diary, arguing and learning a foreign language. Laugh-aloud moments arrive on nearly every page. One essay, “Memory Laps,” is more apt to bring tears, as Sedaris writes about his emotionally abusive father. “My dad was like the Marine Corps, only instead of tearing you to pieces and then putting you back together, he just did the first part and called it a day.” In the case of Sedaris, writing well may be the best revenge.
CLAUDE PECK, Senior culture editor
The Miniature Wife and Other Stories
By Manuel Gonzales (Riverhead Books, 304 pages, $26.95)
A mundane trip to the mall turns ghastly as zombies overtake the shoppers. A scientist “accidentally” reduces his passive-aggressive wife to the size of a coffee mug. A unicorn, held captive in a shed, attempts escape while hopped up on fairy dust (literally, ground-up fairies). The absurd meets the everyday in Gonzales’ debut collection of stories, interspersed with short fake obituaries of eccentric notables. Fans of George Saunders and Wells Tower will likely enjoy Gonzales, as well. While he hasn’t achieved their mastery of sardonic, American-style magical realism, his imagination takes the reader along with him on weird, darkly amusing journeys.
KRISTIN TILLOTSON, Arts and culture writer