Even satirists get the blues. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that satirists are among the likeliest to get the blues, given the pomposity-skewering nature of their work. It shouldn't surprise anyone that David Sedaris' latest collection, the ironically titled "Happy-Go-Lucky," has more touches of melancholy than in previous books. And that's saying something for a man who had to endure a stint as a department store elf, as he recounted in "Barrel Fever."
To be fair, he has plenty to be gloomy about. Aside from the pandemic-related ills that have affected all of us, Sedaris and his family have had personal losses in recent years, such as the death of his 98-year-old father in 2021.
Readers familiar with Sedaris' work know that his father doesn't always come off well in his essays. The mixed bag that was Lou Sedaris is in evidence here as well and is just one of the many subjects that Sedaris addresses.
In one essay, he expresses befuddlement over Americans' passion for guns and notes that in the U.K., where he owns a home, it's impossible for Brits to secure a handgun. "Yet somehow, against all odds, British people feel free."
Other pieces chronicle his urinary tract infection and relative lack of equanimity toward encroaching old age, themes that emerge from talking with fans during book tours, problems with his upper teeth ("I could slip a credit card in there, then a credit card atop a library card. Then the edge of my wallet"), and much more.
Readers can decide how they feel about his admission that, at the height of the pandemic, he and Hugh, his partner of more than 30 years, had up to four dinner parties a week, or his reference to the pandemic as "a golden era for tattletales" who chastised others for wearing their masks improperly.
But he softens the crankiness with that familiar Sedaris charm, as when he writes that most of those dinners Hugh prepared were dishes made with water buffalo — water buffalo moussaka, grape leaves stuffed with water buffalo — because "That was the only thing I managed to successfully hoard."
Late in the book, Sedaris writes that Hugh, a painter, should start a business painting colorful caskets that could double as coffee tables. He even suggests a company name: A-Tisket, A-Casket. In its often-gloomy way, zingers like that one in "Happy-Go-Lucky" offer a useful template for anyone dealing with the blues: It's not easy, but, if possible, find humor in even the grimmest of situations. That'll cheer you up.
Michael Magras is a freelance book critic. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Times Literary Supplement, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Kirkus Reviews and BookPage.
By: David Sedaris.
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co., 304 pages, $29.
Event: 8 p.m. Nov. 1, State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., tickets $48.50-$58.50, HennepinTheatreTrust.org.