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.
This isn’t to suggest that the book is bland or conceited – too much goes wrong for that – but we do get a version of his life that we haven’t quite seen before. This is an existence of first-class carriages and cabins ... The scatological references that abound throughout the diaries are a reassuring sign that Sedaris has not cleaned up his act to reflect his role as elder statesman ... Sedaris has always written with tender insight about his difficult family, especially his staunch Republican father Lou and troubled sister Tiffany ... One of the great attractions of Sedaris’s writing has always been its unvarnished quality. Just when the cosy chattiness could begin to cloy, he tells us something about himself that cuts like a sword. Which means, of course, that you warm to him more than ever.
Next to his pet peeves – rude people, over-friendly service staff and always, always litterbugs – more serious stuff is rarely dealt with: his agent’s dementia and sister Tiffany’s mental illness are presented almost as a diversion, at least until he reports their deaths. Compassion makes an occasional appearance ... but you won’t find analysis here of the major events of these interesting years. The protests after the murder of George Floyd are less likely to attract reflection than sarcasm or a quip ... The jokes seem to thin out in the later years, as Trump takes power, as Sedaris’s father’s health declines, as Covid descends. We don’t expect consistency from diarists, nor explication, and we don’t get it, as people appear without introduction or footnote: in Sedaris’s books, other people exist mainly to provide amusement. Best, then, not to read this book cover to cover, like a novel, but to use it as suggested by the title (which is taken from an Indian restaurant menu): to keep the appetite for delight and absurdity satisfied until the next Sedaris book comes along.
The entries...are...as Sedaris admits, over-polished, and what we hear on the page is a spoken rather than a written voice ... There is a great deal that Sedaris doesn’t say, most of which is the kind of stuff we expect to find in diaries ... The accumulation of what goes unsaid creates a melancholy undertow which reaches its climax during the pandemic ... While his talent is unquestionable, the wild popularity of Sedaris is hard to explain.
... more cosmopolitan and assured than his first collection ... In spite of Sedaris’s new financial security and his homes in Europe and the United States, the core of his personality and insecurity—which draws so many to his writing—remains. Sedaris is curious about the world, particularly its tawdry or ugly sides, and constantly aware of his role and complicity in that ugliness. His style of engagement means finding humor in nearly everything, often in ways that may elicit discomfort, though he is serious when it comes to tragedies such as mass shootings. For this reason, some will see his book as unsalvageable. Yet selected and edited as it is, his work is about radical vulnerability and reflects a universal experience of contending with one’s internal life. 'Who am I, how did I get to be this way, and what is wrong with me?' is a question Sedaris asks, and one worth asking ... Entertaining reading in itself, with references to some of the books he published in this era; a must-read for Sedaris’s many fans.
... he brings an outsider’s perspective to many historical moments. But his personal entries are the more touching ones ... There are plenty of laughs to be had as well; one of the reasons readers love Sedaris is that he’s the first person to laugh at himself. This remains true in A Carnival of Snackery, especially as the bestselling author comes to grips with his late-in-life wealth. Sedaris tours constantly to promote his books, and several entries recount jokes that audience members have shared at book signings. A few of these jokes may be considered tasteless, but many will have you giggling in spite of yourself. There is plenty in A Carnival of Snackery that longtime Sedaris fans will love.
Sedaris’ shrewdly sketched world travelogue, hilarious anecdotes, and frank reflections on loved ones, and life’s myriad absurdities and cruelties major and minor, make for a delectably sardonic, rueful, and provocative chronicle.
The celebrated humorist returns with more offhand observations on the weird and tiresome in these sparkling diary excerpts ... The proceedings are saturated with Sedaris’s trademark irony, wherein the search for energizing squalor ends only in the purgatory of the banal ... They may not stick to your ribs, but Sedaris’s memoiristic nuggets are always tasty.
The flashpoints of the modern era...pop up throughout these entries, but mainly so the author can sail past them with his usual irreverence ... His bottomless capacity to make everything about him doesn’t read as selfishness or ignorance, though; as with all good comics, the particulars of his life are stand-ins for everybody’s foibles and frustrations ... The tone and form of the diaries shift; he’s sometimes glib, sometimes contemplative, sometimes content just to catalog funny stuff he overhears. So for better or worse, he’s a humorist who’ll go anywhere ... A rich trove for hardcore Sedaris fans, though no more personally revealing than his well-shaped essays.