Me Talk Pretty One Day

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Overview

ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY contains far more than just the funniest collection of autobiographical essays - it quite well registers as a manifesto about language itself. Wherever there's a straight line, you can be sure that Sedaris lurks beneath the text, making it jagged with laughter; and just where the fault lines fall, he sits mischievously perched at the epicenter of it all.

No medium available to mankind ...

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Overview

ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY contains far more than just the funniest collection of autobiographical essays - it quite well registers as a manifesto about language itself. Wherever there's a straight line, you can be sure that Sedaris lurks beneath the text, making it jagged with laughter; and just where the fault lines fall, he sits mischievously perched at the epicenter of it all.

No medium available to mankind is spared his cultural vision; no family member (even the dynasties of family pets) is forgotten in these pages of sardonic memories of Sedaris's numerous incarnations in North Carolina, Chicago, New York, and France.

One essay, punctuated by a conspicuous absence of s's and plurals, introduces the lisping young fifth-grader David "Thedarith," who arms himself with a thesaurus, learns every nonsibilant word in the lexicon, eludes his wily speech therapy teacher, and amazes his countrified North Carolina teachers with his out-of-nowhere and man-size vocabulary.

By an ironic twist of fate, readers find present-day Sedaris in France, where only now, after all these years, he must cling safely to just plural nouns so as to avoid assigning the wrong genders to French objects. (Never mind that ordering items from the grocer becomes rather expensive.) Even the strictest of grammarians won't be able to look at the parts of speech in the same way after exposing themselves to the linguistic phenomena of Sedarisian humor. Just why is a sandwich masculine, and yet, say, a belt is feminine in the French language? As he stealthily tries to decode French, like a cross between a housewife and a shrewddetective, he earns the contempt of his sadistic French teacher and soon even resorts to listening to American books on tape for secret relief.

What David Sedaris has to say about language classes, his brother's gangsta-rap slang, typewriters, computers, audiobooks, movies, and even restaurant menus is sure to unleash upon the world a mad rash of pocket-dictionary-toting nouveau grammarians who bow their heads to a new, inverted word order.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
...reveal a writer who is capable not only of being funny, but touching, even tender, too..
Los Angeles Times
Original, acid, and wild.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sedaris is Garrison Keillor's evil twin: like the Minnesota humorist, Sedaris Naked focuses on the icy patches that mark life's sidewalk, though the ice in his work is much more slippery and the falls much more spectacularly funny than in Keillor's. Many of the 27 short essays collected here which appeared originally in the New Yorker, Esquire and elsewhere deal with his father, Lou, to whom the book is dedicated. Lou is a micromanager who tries to get his uninterested children to form a jazz combo and, when that fails, insists on boosting David's career as a performance artist by heckling him from the audience. Sedaris suggests that his father's punishment for being overly involved in his kids' artistic lives is David's brother Paul, otherwise known as "The Rooster," a half-literate miscreant whose language is outrageously profane. Sedaris also writes here about the time he spent in France and the difficulty of learning another language. After several extended stays in a little Norman village and in Paris, Sedaris had progressed, he observes, "from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. `Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window." But in English, Sedaris is nothing if not nimble: in one essay he goes from his cat's cremation to his mother's in a way that somehow manages to remain reverent to both of the departed. "Reliable sources" have told Sedaris that he has "tended to exhaust people," and true to form, he will exhaust readers of this new book, too--with helpless laughter.
Library Journal
Sedaris, noted essayist and NPR radio commentator, is a master at turning his life experiences into witty vignettes that both entertain and comment on the human condition. This latest collection draws on his quirky childhood in North Carolina, where he was subjected to speech therapy sessions to correct his lisp; he countered by conveniently avoiding words that contained "s" sounds. Additional family recollections include his father's desire to create a jazz combo from his offspring--unfortunately, none of them exhibited any talent or desire to follow this career path, but Sedaris uses this opportunity to deliver a stellar Billie Holiday rendition. From there he moves onto a brief stint as a "clearly unqualified" writing teacher in Chicago, where his unorthodox lesson plans included watching soap operas and having the students write "guessays" on what would happen in the next episode. Then it's on to New York and ultimately to France. Sedaris chronicles his attempts to learn French and the confusion experienced by people who don't share the same culture or language. A little sadder at times and overall a little less uproariously funny than in previous works, Sedaris remains the champion of the underdog. Once you listen to him read his own words, it's hard to imagine settling for just the book. Very highly recommended for all libraries.--Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kevin Grandfield
Sedaris has made a name for himself in several entertainment arenas: National Public Radio, live performances, printed books and audiobooks. His fourth collection of essays has lost none of the energy of his previous work. Sedaris' selection covers a wide range of subjects, from guitar lessons to haughty Manhattan eateries to a sister who wears padded fat suits. Sedaris does not have a slick, well-modulated voice but that of a somewhat high-pitched character actor. It is a humorous voice matched by a deadpan delivery that is just a hoot.
Lisa Schwarzbaum
As Me Talk Pretty One Day attests, these days Sedaris glitters as one of the wittiest writers around, an essayist and radio commentator who only appears to be telling simple then-what-happened anecdotes...it's no wonder Sedaris is in such demand as a beacon of comic sanity in a terminally chic world.
Entertainment Weekly
The New Yorker
This fourth collection of short pieces offers pleasures normally to be found only in the best novels and the rare standup act that is actually funny.
Daphne Eviatar
From temping as a Macy's Christmas elf to enduring the humiliation of French class in Paris, Mr. Sedaris's peculiar genius lies in his ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining art. His third book is another compilation of hysterical essays, many originally broadcast on National Public Radio or published in Esquire. The first half of his new book is devoted to stories about childhood, and the second half to tales of his new life in France.
The Christian Science Monitor
Kirkus Reviews
The undisputed champion of the self-conscious and the self-deprecating returns with yet more autobiographical gems from his apparently inexhaustible cache (Naked, 1997, etc.). Sedaris at first mines what may be the most idiosyncratic, if innocuous, childhood since the McCourt clan. Here is father Lou, who's propositioned, via phone, by married family friend Mrs. Midland ("Oh, Lou. It just feels so good to . . . talk to someone who really . . . understands"). Only years later is it divulged that "Mrs. Midland" was impersonated by Lou's 12-year-old daughter Amy. (Lou, to the prankster's relief, always politely declined Mrs. Midland's overtures.) Meanwhile, Mrs. Sedaris—soon after she's put a beloved sick cat to sleep—is terrorized by bogus reports of a "miraculous new cure for feline leukemia," all orchestrated by her bitter children. Brilliant evildoing in this family is not unique to the author. Sedaris (also an essayist on National Public Radio) approaches comic preeminence as he details his futile attempts, as an adult, to learn the French language. Having moved to Paris, he enrolls in French class and struggles endlessly with the logic in assigning inanimate objects a gender ("Why refer to Lady Flesh Wound or Good Sir Dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?"). After months of this, Sedaris finds that the first French-spoken sentiment he's fully understood has been directed to him by his sadistic teacher: "Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section." Among these misadventures, Sedaris catalogs his many bugaboos: the cigarette ban in NewYorkrestaurants ("I'm always searching the menu in hope that some courageous young chef has finally recognized tobacco as a vegetable"); the appending of company Web addresses to television commercials ("Who really wants to know more about Procter & Gamble?"); and a scatological dilemma that would likely remain taboo in most households. Naughty good fun from an impossibly sardonic rogue, quickly rising to Twainian stature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316776967
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 6/5/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 22,689
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

David  Sedaris
David Sedaris is the author of the books Barrel Fever, Naked, and Holidays on Ice and is a regular contributor to Public Radio International's "This American Life."

Biography

According to Time Out New York, "David Sedaris may be the funniest man alive." He's the sort of writer critics tend to describe not in terms of literary influences and trends, but in terms of what they choked on while reading his latest book. "I spewed a mouthful of pastrami across my desk," admitted Craig Seligman in his New York Times review of Naked.

Sedaris first drew national attention in 1992 with a stint on National Public Radio, on which he recounted his experiences as a Christmas elf at Macy's. He discussed "the code names for various posts, such as 'The Vomit Corner,' a mirrored wall near the Magic Tree" and confided that his response to "I'm going to have you fired" was the desire to lean over and say, "I'm going to have you killed." The radio pieces were such a hit that Sedaris, then working as a house cleaner, started getting offers to write movies, soap operas and Seinfeld episodes.

In subsequent appearances on NPR, Sedaris proved he wasn't just a velvet-clad flash in the pan; he's also wickedly funny on the subjects of smoking, speed, shoplifting and nervous tics. His work began appearing in magazines like Harper's and Mirabella, and his first book Barrel Fever, which included "SantaLand Diaries," was a bestseller. "These hilarious, lively and breathtakingly irreverent stories…made me laugh out loud more than anything I've read in years," wrote Francine Prose in the Washington Post Book World.

Since then, each successive Sedaris volume has zoomed to the top of the bestseller lists. In Naked, he recounts odd jobs like volunteering at a mental hospital, picking apples as a seasonal laborer and stripping woodwork for a Nazi sympathizer. The stocking stuffer-sized Holidays on Ice collects Sedaris' Christmas-themed work, including a fictional holiday newsletter from the homicidal stepmother of a 22-year-old Vietnamese immigrant ("She arrived in this house six weeks ago speaking only the words 'Daddy,' 'Shiny' and 'Five dollar now'. Quite a vocabulary!!!!!").

But Sedaris' best pieces often revolve around his childhood in North Carolina and his family of six siblings, including the brother who talks like a redneck gangsta rapper and the sister who, in a hilarious passage far too dirty to quote here, introduces him to the joys of the Internet. Sedaris' recent book Me Talk Pretty One Day describes, among other things, his efforts to learn French while helping his boyfriend fix up a Normandy farmhouse; he progresses "from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. 'Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window."

Sedaris has been compared to American humorists such as Mark Twain, James Thurber and Dorothy Parker; Publisher's Weekly called him "Garrison Keillor's evil twin." Pretty heady stuff for a man who claims there are cats that weigh more than his IQ score. But as This American Life producer Ira Glass once pointed out, it would be wrong to think of Sedaris as "just a working Joe who happens to put out these perfectly constructed pieces of prose." Measured by his ability to turn his experiences into a sharply satirical, sidesplittingly funny form of art, David Sedaris is no less than a genius.

Good To Know

Sedaris got his start in radio after This American Life producer Ira Glass saw him perform at Club Lower Links in Chicago. In addition to his NPR commentaries, Sedaris now writes regularly for Esquire.

Sedaris's younger sister Amy is also a writer and performer; the two have collaborated on plays under the moniker "The Talent Family." Amy Sedaris has appeared onstage as a member of the Second City improv troupe and on Comedy Central in the series Strangers with Candy.

"If I weren't a writer, I'd be a taxidermist," Sedaris said in a chat on Barnes and Noble.com. According to the Boston Phoenix, his collection of stuffed dead animals includes a squirrel, two fruit bats, four Boston terriers and a baby ostrich.

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    1. Also Known As:
      David Raymond Sedaris (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 26, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Johnson City, New York
    1. Education:
      B.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1987

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One

Go Carolina


ANYONE WHO WATCHES EVEN THE SLIGHTEST amount of TV is familiar with the scene: An agent knocks on the door of some seemingly ordinary home or office. The door opens, and the person holding the knob is asked to identify himself. The agent then says, "I'm going to ask you to come with me."

They're always remarkably calm, these agents. If asked "Why do I need to go anywhere with you?" they'll straighten their shirt cuffs or idly brush stray hairs from the sleeves of their sport coats and say, "Oh, I think we both know why."

The suspect then chooses between doing things the hard way and doing things the easy way, and the scene ends with either gunfire or the gentlemanly application of handcuffs. Occasionally it's a case of mistaken identity, but most often the suspect knows exactly why he's being taken. It seems he's been expecting this to happen. The anticipation has ruled his life, and now, finally, the wait is over. You're sometimes led to believe that this person is actually relieved, but I've never bought it. Though it probably has its moments, the average day spent in hiding is bound to beat the average day spent in prison. When it comes time to decide who gets the bottom bunk, I think anyone would agree that there's a lot to be said for doing things the hard way.

The agent came for me during a geography lesson. She entered the room and nodded at my fifth-grade teacher, who stood frowning at a map of Europe. What would needle me later was the realization that this had all been prearranged. My capture had been scheduled to go down at exactly 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon. Theagent would be wearing a dung-colored blazer over a red knit turtleneck, her heels sensibly low in case the suspect should attempt a quick getaway.

"David," the teacher said, "this is Miss Samson, and she'd like you to go with her now."

No one else had been called, so why me? I ran down a list of recent crimes, looking for a conviction that might stick. Setting fire to a reportedly flameproof Halloween costume, stealing a set of barbecue tongs from an unguarded patio, altering the word on a list of rules posted on the gymnasium door; never did it occur to me that I might be innocent.

"You might want to take your books with you," the teacher said. "And your jacket. You probably won't be back before the bell rings."

Though she seemed old at the time, the agent was most likely fresh out of college. She walked beside me and asked what appeared to be an innocent and unrelated question: "So, which do you like better, State or Carolina?"

She was referring to the athletic rivalry between the Triangle area's two largest universities. Those who cared about such things tended to express their allegiance by wearing either Tar Heel powder blue, or Wolf Pack red, two colors that managed to look good on no one. The question of team preference was common in our part of North Carolina, and the answer supposedly spoke volumes about the kind of person you either were or hoped to become. I had no interest in football or basketball but had learned it was best to pretend otherwise. If a boy didn't care for barbecued chicken or potato chips, people would accept it as a matter of personal taste, saying, "Oh well, I guess it takes all kinds." You could turn up your nose at the president or Coke or even God, but there were names for boys who didn't like sports. When the subject came up, I found it best to ask which team my questioner preferred. Then I'd say, "Really? Me, too!"

Asked by the agent which team I supported, I took my cue from her red turtleneck and told her that I was for State. "Definitely State. State all the way."

It was an answer I would regret for years to come.

"State, did you say?" the agent asked.

"Yes, State. They're the greatest."

"I see." She led me through an unmarked door near the principal's office, into a small, windowless room furnished with two facing desks. It was the kind of room where you'd grill someone until they snapped, the kind frequently painted so as to cover the bloodstains. She gestured toward what was to become my regular seat, then continued her line of questioning.

"And what exactly are they, State and Carolina?"

"Colleges? Universities?"

She opened a file on her desk, saying, "Yes, you're right. Your answers are correct, but you're saying them incorrectly. You're telling me that they're colleg eth and univeritie th, when actually they're college s and univer s itie s. You're giving me a th sound instead of a nice clear s. "Can you hear the di s tinction between the two different s sound s?"

I nodded.

"May I plea s e have an actual an s wer?"

"Uh-huh."

" 'Uh-huh' i s not a word."

"Okay."

"Okay what?"

"Okay," I said. "Sure, I can hear it."

"You can hear what, the di s tinction? The contra s t?"

"Yeah, that."

It was the first battle of my war against the letter s, and I was determined to dig my foxhole before the sun went down. According to Agent Samson, a s tate c ertified s peech therapi s t," my s was sibilate, meaning that I lisped.

This was not news to me.

"Our goal i s to work together until eventually you can s peak correctly," Agent Samson said. She made a great show of enunciating her own sparkling s's, and the effect was profoundly irritating. "I'm trying to help you, but the longer you play the s e little game s the longer thi s i s going to take."

The woman spoke with a heavy western North Carolina accent, which I used to discredit her authority. Here was a person for whom the word pen had two syllables. Her people undoubtedly drank from clay jugs and hollered for Paw when the vittles were ready — so who was she to advise me on anything? Over the coming years I would find a crack in each of the therapists sent to train what Miss Samson now defined as my lazy tongue. "That 's it s problem," she said. "It's ju s t plain lazy."

My sisters Amy and Gretchen were, at the time, undergoing therapy for their lazy eyes, while my older sister, Lisa, had been born with a lazy leg that had refused to grow at the same rate as its twin. She'd worn a corrective brace for the first two years of her life, and wherever she roamed she left a trail of scratch marks in the soft pine floor. I liked the idea that a part of one's body might be thought of as lazy — not thoughtless or hostile, just unwilling to extend itself for the betterment of the team. My father often accused my mother of having a lazy mind, while she in turn accused him of having a lazy index finger, unable to dial the phone when he knew damn well he was going to be late.

My therapy sessions were scheduled for every Thursday at 2: 30, and with the exception of my mother, I discussed them with no one. The word therapy suggested a profound failure on my part. Mental patients had therapy. Normal people did not. I didn't see my sessions as the sort of thing that one would want to advertise, but as my teacher liked to say, "I guess it takes all kinds." Whereas my goal was to keep it a secret, hers was to inform the entire class. If I got up from my seat at 2:30 , she'd say, "Sit back down, David. You've still got five minutes before your speech therapy session." If I remained seated until 2:30 , she'd say, "David, don't forget you have a speech therapy session at two-thirty." On the days I was absent, I imagined she addressed the room, saying, "David's not here today but if he were, he'd have a speech therapy session at two-thirty."

My sessions varied from week to week. Sometimes I'd spend the half hour parroting whatever Agent Samson had to say. We'd occasionally pass the time examining charts on tongue position or reading childish s-laden texts recounting the adventures of seals or settlers named Sassy or Samuel. On the worst of days she'd haul out a tape recorder and show me just how much progress I was failing to make.

"My s peech therapi s "t's name i s Mi ss Chri ss y S am s on." She'd hand me the microphone and lean back with her arms crossed. "Go ahead, s ay it. I want you to hear what you s ound like."

She was in love with the sound of her own name and seemed to view my speech impediment as a personal assault. If I wanted to spend the rest of my life as David Thedarith, then so be it. She, however, was going to be called Mi ss Chri ss y S am s on. Had her name included no s's, she probably would have bypassed a career in therapy and devoted herself to yanking out healthy molars or performing unwanted clitoridectomies on the schoolgirls of Africa. Such was her personality.

"Oh, come on," my mother would say. "I'm sure she's not that bad. Give her a break. The girl's just trying to do her job."

I was a few minutes early one week and entered the office to find Agent Samson doing her job on Garth Barclay, a slight, kittenish boy I'd met back in the fourth grade. "You may wait out s ide in the hallway until it i s your turn," she told me. A week or two later my session was interrupted by mincing Steve Bixler, who popped his head in the door and announced that his parents were taking him out of town for a long weekend, meaning that he would miss his regular Friday session. "Thorry about that," he said.

I started keeping watch over the speech therapy door, taking note of who came and went. Had I seen one popular student leaving the office, I could have believed my mother and viewed my lisp as the sort of thing that might happen to anyone. Unfortunately, I saw no popular students. Chuck Coggins, Sam Shelton, Louis Delucca: obviously, there was some connection between a sibilate s and a complete lack of interest in the State versus Carolina issue.

None of the therapy students were girls. They were all boys like me who kept movie star scrapbooks and made their own curtains. "You don't want to be doing that," the men in our families would say. "That's a girl thing." Baking scones and cupcakes for the school janitors, watching Guiding Light with our mothers, collecting rose petals for use in a fragrant potpourri: anything worth doing turned out to be a girl thing. In order to enjoy ourselves, we learned to be duplicitous. Our stacks of Cosmopolitan were topped with an unread issue of Boy's Life or Sports Illustrated, and our decoupage projects were concealed beneath the sporting equipment we never asked for but always received. When asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, we hid the truth and listed who we wanted to sleep with when we grew up. "A policeman or a fireman or one of those guys who works with high-tension wires." Symptoms were feigned, and our mothers wrote notes excusing our absences on the day of the intramural softball tournament. Brian had a stomach virus or Ted suffered from that twenty-four-hour bug that seemed to be going around.

One of the s e day s I'm going to have to hang a s ign on that door," Agent Samson used to say. She was probably thinking along the lines of SPEECH THERAPY LAB, though a more appropriate marker would have read FUTURE HOMOSEXUALS OF AMERICA. We knocked ourselves out trying to fit in but were ultimately betrayed by our tongues. At the beginning of the school year, while we were congratulating ourselves on successfully passing for normal, Agent Samson was taking names as our assembled teachers raised their hands, saying, "I've got one in my homeroom," and "There are two in my fourth-period math class." Were they also able to spot the future drunks and depressives? Did they hope that by eliminating our lisps, they might set us on a different path, or were they trying to prepare us for future stage and choral careers?

Miss Samson instructed me, when forming an s, to position the tip of my tongue against the rear of my top teeth, right up against the gum line. The effect produced a sound not unlike that of a tire releasing air. It was awkward and strange-sounding, and elicited much more attention than the original lisp. I failed to see the hissy s as a solution to the problem and continued to talk normally, at least at home, where my lazy tongue fell upon equally lazy ears. At school, where every teacher was a potential spy, I tried to avoid an s ound whenever possible. "Yes," became "correct," or a military "affirmative." "Please," became "with your kind permission," and questions were pleaded rather than asked. After a few weeks of what she called "endless pestering" and what I called "repeated badgering," my mother bought me a pocket thesaurus, which provided me with s-free alternatives to just about everything. I consulted the book both at home in my room and at the daily learning academy other people called our school. Agent Samson was not amused when I began referring to her as an articulation coach, but the majority of my teachers were delighted. "What a nice vocabulary," they said. "My goodness, such big words!"

Plurals presented a considerable problem, but I worked around them as best I could; "rivers," for example, became either "a river or two" or "many a river." Possessives were a similar headache, and it was easier to say nothing than to announce that the left-hand and the right-hand glove of Janet had fallen to the floor. After all the compliments I had received on my improved vocabulary, it seemed prudent to lie low and keep my mouth shut. I didn't want anyone thinking I was trying to be a pet of the teacher.

When I first began my speech therapy, I worried that the Agent Samson plan might work for everyone but me, that the other boys might strengthen their lazy tongues, turn their lives around, and leave me stranded. Luckily my fears were never realized. Despite the woman's best efforts, no one seemed to make any significant improvement. The only difference was that we were all a little quieter. Thanks to Agent Samson's tape recorder, I, along with the others, now had a clear sense of what I actually sounded like. There was the lisp, of course, but more troubling was my voice itself, with its excitable tone and high, girlish pitch. I'd hear myself ordering lunch in the cafeteria, and the sound would turn my stomach. How could anyone stand to listen to me? Whereas those around me might grow up to be lawyers or movie stars, my only option was to take a vow of silence and become a monk. My former classmates would call the abbey, wondering how I was doing, and the priest would answer the phone. "You can't talk to him!" he'd say. "Why, Brother David hasn't spoken to anyone in thirty-five years!"

"Oh, relax," my mother said. "Your voice will change eventually."

"And what if it doesn't?"

She shuddered. "Don't be so morbid."

It turned out that Agent Samson was something along the lines of a circuit-court speech therapist. She spent four months at our school and then moved on to another. Our last meeting was held the day before school let out for Christmas. My classrooms were all decorated, the halls — everything but her office, which remained as bare as ever. I was expecting a regular half hour of Sassy the seal and was delighted to find her packing up her tape recorder.

"I thought that thi s afternoon we might let loo s e and have a party, you and I. How doe s that s ound?" She reached into her desk drawer and withdrew a festive tin of cookies. "Here, have one. I made them my s elf from s cratch and, boy, was it a me ss! Do you ever make cookie s?"

I lied, saying that no, I never had.

"Well, it 's hard work," she said. "E s pecially if you don't have a mixer."

It was unlike Agent Samson to speak so casually, and awkward to sit in the hot little room, pretending to have a normal conversation. "S o," she said, "what are your plan s for the holiday s?"

"Well, I usually remain here and, you know, open a gift from my family."

"Only one?" she asked.

"Maybe eight or ten."

"Never s ix or s even?"

"Rarely," I said.

"And what do you do on De c ember thirty-fir s t, New Year's Eve?"

"On the final day of the year we take down the pine tree in our living room and eat marine life."

"You're pretty good at avoiding those s's," she said. "I have to hand it to you, you're tougher than most."

I thought she would continue trying to trip me up, but instead she talked about her own holiday plans. "It 's pretty hard with my fian c in Vietnam," she said. "La s t pretending to have a normal conversation. "S o," she said, "what are your plan s for the holiday s?"

"Well, I usually remain here and, you know, open a gift from my family."

"Only one?" she asked.

"Maybe eight or ten."

"Never s ix or s even?"

"Rarely," I said.

"And what do you do on De c ember thirty-fir s t, New Year's Eve?"

"On the final day of the year we take down the pine tree in our living room and eat marine life."

"You're pretty good at avoiding those s's," she said. "I have to hand it to you, you're tougher than most."

I thought she would continue trying to trip me up, but instead she talked about her own holiday plans. "It 's pretty hard with my fian c in Vietnam," she said. "La s t year we went up to see hi s folk s in Roanoke, but thi s year I'll spend Chri s tma s with my grandmother out s ide of Asheville. My parent s will come, and we'll all try our be s t to have a good time. I'll eat s ome turkey and go to church, and then, the next day, a friend and I will drive down to Jack s onville to watch Florida play Tenne ss ee in the Gator Bowl."

I couldn't imagine anything worse than driving down to Florida to watch a football game, but I pretended to be impressed. "Wow, that ought to be eventful."

"I wa s in Memphi s la s t year when N C State whooped Georgia fourteen to s even in the Liberty Bowl," she said. "And next year, I don't care who's playing, but I want to be s itting front-row c enter at the Tangerine Bowl. Have you ever been to Orlando? It's a super fun pla c e. If my future hu s band can find a job in hi s field, we're hoping to move down there within a year or two. Me living in Florida. I bet that would make you happy, wouldn't it?"

I didn't quite know how to respond. Who was this college bowl fanatic with no mixer and a fiancé in Vietnam, and why had she taken so long to reveal herself? Here I'd thought of her as a cold-blooded agent when she was really nothing but a slightly dopey, inexperienced speech teacher. She wasn't a bad person, Miss Samson, but her timing was off. She should have acted friendly at the beginning of the year instead of waiting until now, when all I could do was feel sorry for her.

"I tried my be s t to work with you and the other s, but s ometime s a per s on's be s t ju s t i s n't good enough."

She took another cookie and turned it over in her hands. "I really wanted to prove my s elf and make a differen c in people's live s, but it's hard to do your job when you're met with s o much re s i s tan c e. My student s don't like me, and I gue ss that's ju s t the way it i s. What can I s ay? A s a s peech teacher, I'm a complete failure."

She moved her hands toward her face, and I worried that she might start to cry. "Hey, look," I said. "I'm thorry."

"Ha-ha," she said. "I got you." She laughed much more than she needed to and was still at it when she signed the form recommending me for the following year's speech therapy program. "Thorry, indeed. You've got some work ahead of you, mi s ter."

I related the story to my mother, who got a huge kick out of it. "You've got to admit that you really are a sucker," she said.

I agreed but, because none of my speech classes ever made a difference, I still prefer to use the word chump.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

One Go Carolina.....3
Giant Dreams, Midget Abilities.....16
Genetic Engineering.....32
Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist.....39
You Can't Kill the Rooster.....60
The Youth in Asia.....69
The Learning Curve.....83
Big Boy.....97
The Great Leap Forward.....100
Today's Special.....120
City of Angels.....125
A Shiner Like a Diamond.....132
Nutcracker.com.....142
See You Again Yesterday.....153
Me Talk Pretty One Day.....166
Jesus Shaves.....174
The Tapeworm Is In.....181
Make That a Double.....187
Remembering My Childhood on the Continent of Africa..... 192
Down.....201
The City of Light in the Dark.....205
I Pledge Allegiance to the Bag.....211
Picka Pocketoni.....219
I Almost Saw This Girl Get Killed.....228
Smart Guy.....239
The Late Show.....248
I'll Eat What He's Wearing.....265
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 560 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(292)

4 Star

(151)

3 Star

(59)

2 Star

(24)

1 Star

(34)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 562 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2000

    I actually hurt myself laughing at this book

    I laughed till I cried at his earlier books, but--I swear I'm not making this up--I laughed so hard I almost threw up when I was reading Me Talk Pretty One Day. I was home alone and couldn't wait for my husband to come home so I could read parts of it to him.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Funny but not for kids

    I love listening to David Sedaris. His stories are always hilarious, often touching and frequently completely inappropriate for children.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2000

    Laughing Out Loud!!!

    Sedaris lands a firm whack to the funny bone! The next thing you know you're laughing out loud....and explaining yourself to people who've noticed.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 2, 2013

    ¿If you aren't cute, you may as well be clever.¿  Well David Sed

    “If you aren't cute, you may as well be clever.”  Well David Sedaris is certainly clever and never more so than in Me Talk Pretty One Day. A friend gave it to me when I was down and I recommend anyone to give it to a friend that needs cheering up. It helped me so much. 

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013

    In this book Sedaris tells his life story and the things that ha

    In this book Sedaris tells his life story and the things that happen to him throughout his life. When I first started to read this book I enjoyed it, and I liked to hear about how Sedaris was able to find ways to work around his speech impediment when he was a child. In one of the chapters his dad forced him to play an instrument that he had no interest in. I was able to relate to him in this chapter because when I was a child I was forced to play a sport that I had absolutely had no interest in but my parents wanted me to play. One of the chapters that disturbed me the most was when he was at a friend’s house and he walked into the bathroom after someone had left poop in the toilet. He felt that someone would think it was him so he tried to flush it, but then it started to overflow and how he made it stop you can read if you want. The majority of the content in this book I would say is rated R because has quite a bit of foul language, drugs and dirty humor. If you have a dirty mind or are eager for a twisted and sick read then I encourage you to read it, but if you’re like me and aren’t into twisted humor then this isn’t the book for you. Although, I didn’t really agree with what was being said at times during this book, I found it hard to put down. The book is very interesting because he doesn’t live a normal life, it’s actually very far from it. I would recommend this book because of how off the wall it is and funny, but some parts my stomach was too weak to handle. Although, I can’t said that I hated this book because the adventures he went through and how his life actually turns out is very interesting and a bit comical at moments.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2000

    You Too Will Like The Sandwich

    Mr. Sedaris is a genuine wit. He can combine fast pace narrative style with his own brand of keen insight.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2000

    a real slayer

    it just keeps on giving. you will find yourself chuckling in the shower, and insisting that people allow you to read passages aloud to them. ruins you for other reading even days after you are done with it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2013

    Still...

    Makes me laugh. He's funny and a good writer.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2013

    In the book Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is a compila

    In the book Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is a compilation of his essays about many different subjects and topics each chapter is different. He starts off the book by talking about his childhood lisp and how he wants to name his guitar a boys name. All of his chapters just get stranger after that, especially the Big Boy chapter I honestly did not understand the point of that essay. I particularly did not like this book because I just wish it would all go together instead of being jumbled around. The humor was different unlike anything that I have read before. This is my first book from David and it will be my last. I do not like the style that he writes in, and I am sure if any of his books are like this one then I will not recommend them to anyone. Some people may like this style of writing and this type of humor but I did not like it. If this book was not required for my class I probably would have walked passed it a million times in the book store not even looking down at it. However, now that I have read the book and tried to understand what he was saying exactly I probably will never read this book again. One thing I wish the book had more of was a purpose and a flow. If this was one whole story, like most books are, I probably would have enjoyed it more, but since it was scattered and all the chapters were different I just got lost and confused. I would not recommend this book to anyone unless I think they might like a book like this or have that sense of humor that Sedaris has. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2010

    Don't waste your time.

    From the first page, I did not like this book. I forced myself to finish it. I was expecting humor, I did not find any. I found a boring, self absorbed man who whined his way through this horrid book. Please, I beg you, do not waste your time or money.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    Emma k

    This book stinks

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2014

    Terrible book

    I saw this book featured in a list of the funniest books of all time so I looked forward to reading it.
    Sadly, I was terribly disappointed. The main drawback of the book is not its pointless narrative, nor its non-linear succession of irrelevant events, but namely the fact that the narrator is downright detestable. Throughout the entire book, he exhibits not one redeemable quality. His contempt and misanthropy are not the interesting personality traits of a genius but rather the resentment-filled sad ramblings of a painfully mediocre idiot.
    The most promising aspect of the book -the narrator's homosexuality- is awfully downplayed. There's not a hint of erotism, which is a shame. If there were, at least there would be something remarkable about this waste of time called Me Talk Pretty One Day.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Fantastic

    Just shut up, stop looking at the reviews and read the darn book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 10, 2013

    David Sedaris captures his sister brilliantly in this book: ¿Amy

    David Sedaris captures his sister brilliantly in this book: “Amy adored both the new look and the new person it allowed her to be. Following the photo shoot, she wore her bruises to the dry cleaner and the grocery store. Most people nervously looked away, but on the rare occasions someone would ask what happened, my sister would smile as brightly as possible, saying, 'I'm in love. Can you believe it? I'm finally, totally in love, and I feel great.” A fabulous read, though I think his sister is funnier than he is. What a great family to have two such brilliant artists.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2013

    Chanell

    This books that David wrote are very amusing and enthusiastic. My 13 year old daughter is now inspired by him to be author

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2000

    he DOES talk pretty!

    Ahhhhh David Sedaris... How is it that a gay man from North Carolina can so vividly paint a portrait of my own straight, female and extraordinarily midwestern childhood... I believe David Sedaris could convince me of the heretofore unheralded beauty of yard art. He's so astoundingly precise with language and persuasion, he could easily convince me to fill a bathtub full of dirt and plant plastic daisies and pink flamingos in it! READ THIS BOOK...laugh out loud...sigh a sweet, long-winded sigh, and revel in this man's vision of the world...truly an island unto itself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2000

    Fun! Fun! Fun! And More!

    While perusing the shelves in a neighborhood independent bookstore one evening, this book caught my eye -- the idea of nonfiction essays and the France connection -- and Sedaris' name was familiar from NPR. I picked it up and thoroughly enjoyed the wacky and honest insights page by page by page. It was a smooth enjoyable read from beginning to end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2014

    Funny, brilliant

    David Sedaris never disappoints. This book is everything you'd expect from his writing: laugh-out-loud hilarious, uncomfortable, unexpected, poignant.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Well, this was mandatory Common Core reading for my 15 year old

    Well, this was mandatory Common Core reading for my 15 year old in High School.
    The administrators are pushing this Common Core "non-fiction" reading.
    The author tells about how almost everyone he knows has been involved in a "threesome."
    Very strange man. He goes to France just to watch movies because Americans are so loud.
    He doesn't sight see, just goes to watch movies. He's very anti-social and strange.
     I would give it a zero if it were possible. If this constitutes non-fiction reading. It's a waste of time.
    Let's go back to the classics where they actually learn how to think. 

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

    Zippy zebra

    This is the worst book I have ever read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 562 Customer Reviews

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