To read David Sedaris is to laugh, and hard. The humorist has long entertained fans with absurd stories containing too much information about his large family, which includes five siblings.
Calypso, his latest collection of essays, some previously published, is a direct hit to the funny bone, but it's perhaps also his saddest book yet. The second story, "Now We Are Five," details his sister Tiffany's suicide and the emotional fallout on the family. Death, and the expectation of it, becomes a running theme, especially now that the surviving siblings are all in their 50s, approaching the age when their mother died of cancer. Though she passed away in 1991, her presence still looms large for Sedaris as he details how she lived for making others laugh, and the influence she had on him when it comes to crafting funny stories. The irony is that the parent left behind is his 92-year-old father, with whom Sedaris struggles to connect: "We're like a pair of bad trapeze artists, reaching for each other's hands and missing every time."
Sedaris has no trouble connecting with his readers, injecting levity into situations before they become too depressing. In "Sorry," after a serious argument with Hugh, his longtime boyfriend, Sedaris is about to unleash a rant about it on his sister Gretchen, when she defuses him with the tidbit that her former boyfriend Greg "used to drink the liquid out of tuna cans." Sedaris claims sorrow is more memorable than happiness, but readers of Calypso will remember the laughs as well as the melancholy. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd