In this follow-up to his previous volume of diaries, Theft by Finding, the humorist David Sedaris chronicles the years 2003-2020, charting the years of his rise to fame with his trademark misanthropic charm and wry wit.
I’ve read everything David Sedaris has published — some things many times over ... What he does in his exquisitely crafted essays is reconstruct his life as a funny story, the kind you’d hear at a dinner party if you were very lucky in your friendships ... When Sedaris’s first volume of diary entries came out, I was curious to peek behind the curtain of his prose. It turned out, the diaries...are as clear, direct and funny as his essays ... Sedaris' essays have a strength: They exist for a reason — namely, to describe and preserve his family. His family is the deciding factor that makes him a warm and funny writer to the core, and not a lonely, abstract one ... The entries in A Carnival of Snackery focus on small things, the kind of thing Sedaris notices ... What sets Sedaris’s diaries apart from his essay collections is not that they’re more intimate (more wouldn’t be possible) or that they show a different aspect of the author or his life, but that the collections themselves are longer. Time passes ... To portray the passage of time is, I think, the great artistic advantage of a thick novel or a long memoir. It’s large-scale art: architecture rather than sculpture, grand painting rather than doodle. The problem with a big, structural work of art is that the small parts often atrophy and drift away. Someone like Sedaris, who has such a gift for illuminating small things, would normally have no business crafting an edifice. But the beauty of a diary is that it doesn’t need to be crafted. It just grows on its own, while the diarist concentrates on the human-scale (or even microscopic) things that interest him.
Diaries can be private spaces, but these recollections were clearly written with public dissemination in mind ... He couldn’t write a bad sentence if he tried, but its their performative nature that gives his work a beautiful rhythm. The timbre of his lovely, soft, slightly high-pitched, slightly lisping voice echoes in your head, as punchlines are deftly delivered ... Cruelty and kindness, tragedy and joy rub fabulously together as they always do in Sedaris world ... David Sedaris...a man whose ceaseless curiosity about human beings and eye for the peculiar is as unusual as it is delightful, wise, funny and hugely life-affirming.
Incuriosity is not one of David Sedaris’s flaws, and in this second tranche of his diaries, his appetite for observing the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of his fellow humans is deliciously rampant ... there is no sense that he is becoming jaded ... To read these entries – some of the more boring ones omitted, Sedaris explains in his introduction, but otherwise free of retroactive editing – is to become complicit in a high-wire act: appreciating his appreciation of weirdness and recognising it for the voyeurism it sometimes is, balancing his enthralment to observation with his more active poking of the hornet’s nest, his amused indulgence with something a little less benign. Therein, of course, lies Sedaris’s edge; a flâneur in Comme des Garçons who doesn’t so much cross the line as vault it in search of another one ... Unsurprisingly, Sedaris hits this minor key most movingly when he is writing about his family ... grumpy, bitchy, sympathetic, sad and welcoming all at once.