A guy walks into a bar car and...
From here the story could take many turns. When this guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved.
Sedaris remembers his father's dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants), his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant), and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered Pygmy.
With Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris shows once again why his work has been called "hilarious, elegant, and surprisingly moving" (Washington Post).
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
David Sedaris is the author of the books Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Holidays on Ice, Naked, and Barrel Fever. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and Public Radio International's This American Life. He lives in England.
Date of Birth:December 26, 1956
Place of Birth:Johnson City, New York
Education:B.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1987
Read an Excerpt
Dentists Without Borders
One thing that puzzled me during the American health-care debate was all the talk about socialized medicine and how ineffective it's supposed to be. The Canadian plan was likened to genocide, but even worse were the ones in Europe, where patients languished on filthy cots, waiting for aspirin to be invented. I don't know where these people get their ideas, but my experiences in France, where I've lived off and on for the past thirteen years, have all been good. A house call in Paris will run you around fifty dollars. I was tempted to arrange one the last time I had a kidney stone, but waiting even ten minutes seemed out of the question, so instead I took the subway to the nearest hospital. In the center of town, where we're lucky enough to have an apartment, most of my needs are within arm's reach. There's a pharmacy right around the corner, and two blocks farther is the office of my physician, Dr. Médioni.
Twice I've called on a Saturday morning, and, after answering the phone himself, he has told me to come on over. These visits too cost around fifty dollars. The last time I went, I had a red thunderbolt bisecting my left eyeball.
The doctor looked at it for a moment, and then took a seat behind his desk. "I wouldn't worry about it if I were you," he said. "A thing like that, it should be gone in a day or two."
"Well, where did it come from?" I asked. "How did I get it?"
"How do we get most things?" he answered.
"We buy them?"
The time before that, I was lying in bed and found a lump on my right side, just below my rib cage. It was like a deviled egg tucked beneath my skin. Cancer, I thought. A phone call and twenty minutes later, I was stretched out on the examining table with my shirt raised.
"Oh, that's nothing," the doctor said. "A little fatty tumor. Dogs get them all the time."
I thought of other things dogs have that I don't want: Dewclaws, for example. Hookworms. "Can I have it removed?"
"I guess you could, but why would you want to?"
He made me feel vain and frivolous for even thinking about it. "You're right," I told him. "I'll just pull my bathing suit up a little higher."
When I asked if the tumor would get any bigger, the doctor gave it a gentle squeeze. "Bigger? Sure, probably."
"Will it get a lot bigger?"
"Why not?" I asked.
And he said, sounding suddenly weary, "I don't know. Why don't trees touch the sky?"
Médioni works from an apartment on the third floor of a handsome nineteenth-century building, and, on leaving, I always think, Wait a minute. Did I see a diploma on his wall? Could "Doctor" possibly be the man's first name? He's not indifferent. It's just that I expect a little something more than "It'll go away." The thunderbolt cleared up, just as he said it would, and I've since met dozens of people who have fatty tumors and get along just fine. Maybe, being American, I want bigger names for things. I also expect a bit more gravity. "I've run some tests," I'd like to hear, "and discovered that what you have is called a bilateral ganglial abasement, or, in layman's terms, a cartoidal rupture of the venal septrumus. Dogs get these all the time, and most often they die. That's why I'd like us to proceed with the utmost caution."
For my fifty dollars, I want to leave the doctor's office in tears, but instead I walk out feeling like a hypochondriac, which is one of the few things I'm actually not. If my French physician is a little disappointing, my French periodontist more than makes up for it. I have nothing but good things to say about Dr. Guig, who, gum-wise, has really brought me back from the abyss. Twice in the course of our decade-long relationship, he's performed surgical interventions. Then, last year, he removed four of my lower incisors, drilled down into my jawbone, and cemented in place two posts. First, though, he sat me down and explained the procedure, using lots of big words that allowed me to feel tragic and important. "I'm going to perform the surgery at nine o'clock on Tuesday morning, and it should take, at most, three hours," he said all of this, as usual, in French. "At six that evening, you'll go to the dentist for your temporary implants, but still I'd like you to block out that entire day."
I asked my boyfriend, Hugh, when I got home, "Where did he think I was going to go with four missing teeth?"
I see Dr. Guig for surgery and consultations, but the regular, twice-a year deep cleanings are performed by his associate, a woman named Dr. Barras. What she does in my mouth is unspeakable, and because it causes me to sweat, I've taken to bringing a second set of clothes and changing in the bathroom before I leave for home. "Oh, Monsieur Sedaris," she chuckles. "You are such a child."
A year ago, I arrived and announced that, since my previous visit, I'd been flossing every night. I thought this might elicit some praise "How dedicated you are, how disciplined!" but instead she said, "Oh, there's no need."
It was the same when I complained about all the gaps between my teeth. "I had braces when I was young, but maybe I need them again," I told her. An American dentist would have referred me to an orthodontist, but, to Dr. Barras, I was just being hysterical. "You have what we in France call 'good time teeth,'" she said. "Why on earth would you want to change them?"
"Um, because I can floss with the sash to my bathrobe?"
"Hey," she said, "enough with the flossing. You have better ways to spend your evenings."
I guess that's where the good times come in.
Dr. Barras has a sick mother and a long-haired cat named Andy. As I lie there sweating with my trap wide open, she runs her electric hook under my gum line, and catches me up on her life since my last visit. I always leave with a mouthful of blood, yet I always look forward to my next appointment. She and Dr. Guig are my people, completely independent of Hugh, and though it's a stretch to label them friends, I think they'd miss me if I died of a fatty tumor.
Something similar is happening with my dentist, Dr. Granat. He didn't fabricate my implants that was the work of a prosthodontist but he took the molds and made certain that the teeth fit. This was done during five visits in the winter of 2011. Once a week, I'd show up at the office and climb into his reclining chair. Then I'd sink back with my mouth open. "Ça va?" he'd ask every five minutes or so, meaning, "All right?" And I'd release a little tone. Like a doorbell. "E-um."
Implants come in two stages. The first teeth that get screwed in, the temporaries, are blocky, and the color is off. The second ones are more refined and are somehow dyed or painted to match their neighbors. My four false incisors are connected to form a single unit and were secured into place with an actual screwdriver. Because the teeth affect one's bite, the positioning has to be exact, so my dentist would put them in and then remove them to make minor adjustments. Put them in, take them out. Over and over. All the pain was behind me by this point, so I just lay there, trying to be a good patient.
Dr. Granat keeps a small muted television mounted near the ceiling, and each time I come it is tuned to the French travel channel Voyage, it's called. Once, I watched a group of mountain people decorate a yak. They didn't string lights on it, but everything else seemed fair game: ribbons, bells, silver sheaths for the tips of its horns.
Another week we were somewhere in Africa, where a family of five dug into the ground and unearthed what looked to be a burrow full of mice. Dr. Granat's assistant came into the room to ask a question, and when I looked back at the screen the mice had been skinned and placed, kebablike, on sharp sticks. Then came another distraction, and when I looked up again the family in Africa were grilling the mice over a campfire, and eating them with their fingers.
"Ça va?" Dr. Granat asked, and I raised my hand, international dental sign language for "There is something vital I need to communicate." He removed his screwdriver from my mouth, and I pointed to the screen. "Ils ont mangé des souris en brochette," I told him, meaning, "They have eaten some mice on skewers."
He looked up at the little TV. "Ah, oui?"
A regular viewer of the travel channel, Dr. Granat is surprised by nothing. He's seen it all and is quite the traveler himself. As is Dr. Guig. Dr. Barras hasn't gone anywhere exciting lately, but what with her mother, how can she? With all these dental professionals in my life, you'd think I'd look less like a jack-o'-lantern. You'd think I could bite into an ear of corn, or at least tear meat from a chicken bone, but that won't happen for another few years, not until we tackle my two front teeth and the wobbly second incisors that flank them. "But after that's done I'll still need to come regularly, won't I?" I said to Dr. Guig, almost panicked. "My gum disease isn't cured, is it?"
I've gone from avoiding dentists and periodontists to practically stalking them, not in some quest for a Hollywood smile but because I enjoy their company. I'm happy in their waiting rooms, the coffee tables heaped with Gala and Madame Figaro. I like their mumbled French, spoken from behind Tyvek masks. None of them ever call me David, no matter how often I invite them to. Rather, I'm Monsieur Sedaris, not my father but the smaller, Continental model. Monsieur Sedaris with the four lower implants. Monsieur Sedaris with the good-time teeth, sweating so fiercely he leaves the office two kilos lighter. That's me, pointing to the bathroom and asking the receptionist if I may use the sandbox, me traipsing down the stairs in a fresh set of clothes, my smile bittersweet and drearied with blood, counting the days until I can come back and return myself to this curious, socialized care.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
Dentists Without Borders 3
Think Differenter 33
Memory Laps 41
A Friend in the Ghetto 67
If I Ruled the World 119
Easy, Tiger 125
Laugh, Kookaburra 143
Standing Still 167
Just a Quick E-mail 193
A Guy Walks into a Bar Car 201
Author, Author 229
Standing By 261
I Break for Traditional Marriage 279
Understanding Understanding Owls 291
#2 to Go 315
Health-Care Freedoms and Why I Want My Country Back 335
Now Hiring Friendly People 343
Day In, Day Out 377
Mind the Gap 401
A Cold Case 413
The Happy Place 439
Dog Days 463
What People are Saying About This
Glorious....What makes Sedaris's work transcendent is its humanity....He's the best there is.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
David Sedaris is at his usual level of fantastic with this book. In addition to being hilarious and thought provoking, I really felt like he was letting his guard down for the first time. There was some interesting, and I felt honest, insights into Sedaris' politics, beliefs and interpersonal relations that go a little deeper than in his previous books. So not your book if you're easily offended by jabs at social norms and religion, or dislike same-sex relationships, Democrats or French people. For the rest of us, it's awesome.
David Sedaris is a very witty writer. He has a grasp of subtle humor not many writers have. I was tickled by his writing in this new book. I highly recommend this book.
This is another great book by David Sedaris, one of my favorite authors. The writing in this book is light and fun. I really enjoyed this book.
I simply love David Sedaris' writing. He is one of the modern masters of the written word. This book is funny and insightful.
Sorry, I don't know how to say this any differently but, "This is a wet your pants" funny book. I've read all of his books and he is hilarious. No matter what he writes, I'll buy, because it makes your heart happy. Thanks David, keep writing.
David is still a very funny writer but is starting to sound a little cranky. This is better than the squirrel book though.
Funny as ever. I love Sedaris and this is his best work yet.
I was so excited to get the newest from David Sedaris (his earlier memoirs are divine), that I unhesitatingly recommended it before reading it myself. That's the last time I do that. Although there were a few gems, I was ultimately underwhelmed and disappointed. Someone mentioned in another review that he's gotten too cranky - I'd have to agree - hyper-cynicism just isn't that funny, ironic or insightful; it's just cranky. Maybe he's running out of the kind of personal anecdotes that made his previous books so good...
It's hard to rank this new book. His best book was Naked and it's been downhill from there. Still, on his worst day, Sedaris is a good writer. Other writers are just as good though but never get the press.
I loved this book. It is one of those books you just have to read little bits of out loud to others, cause you just can't help yourself!!!
There really is a time when "cynical" becomes plain mean. You are a bitter and mean man Mr. Sadaris. A person's pain can ennoble, or cause greater empathy. Sorry to say you chose viciousness thinly cloaked as "humor." Dear reader, don't fall for reviews as I did. Choose something to bring a little joy, mystery, or humor to your life. You deserve more than this mock-humorous diatribe for your hard earned dollars.
I love David Sedaris--I've been reading his books since high school--and if you've never read any of his books, stop reading this right now and go find one. This is another excellent book by one of my favorite authors; I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good laugh.
Sadder than his previous books, a bit heartwrenching, actually. but every bit as insightful and hilarious as i have come to expect from David Sedaris.
David Sedaris is so funny! I can relate to his life experiences.... He is so comical in his writing, and a can relate to the experiences in his life, and the way that parents were back then. His parents could have been mine. I'd love to meet him! I am not sure that everyone can relate...but I personally loved this book. .
Although there were some very funny moments, this book was lacking. Okay but not great.
A master of human observation and narrative twists, David Sedarius's narrative draws the reader in. One happily follows him through his adventures in dental hygiene (far more entertaining as he tells it than a mundane dental patient's recount) and further adventures in France. This is a delightful read. Vive Sedarius!
Hello, I already know that I already posted a review, but there is something I left out in my pther review. I agree a little with written like a cranky man. I kind of think the same.
Loved the writing and his take on life. Highly recommend. This book made me want to read his other books.
Written like a cranky old man.
Light hearted read with every chapter being new and refreshing. Many moments of laughter.
Bought the CD because I enjoy hearing Sedaris "tell the story." I felt it was not as humorous as much of his other work. I loved Squirrel and Chipmunk but Owls.... disappointed me.
Hilarious, as expected. Ridiculously left-leaning, in the best way possible. My favorites were the ones written from very exaggerated opposite personas from his.
Great book. Funny as usual.
Very entertaining. Highly recommended.
Funniest book I read in my life. And the funnier book of his.