I have come to the conclusion that David Sedaris is not just some geeky Samuel Pepys, as I had assumed all these years. True, he may shed a revelatory light on the more extreme facets of our societal spectrum through his bizarre and pithy prism. Yes, his worldview—a fascinating hybrid of the curious, cranky and kooky—does indeed hold a mirror up to nature and show us as others see us. But make no mistake: He is not the Fool, he is Lear ... This book allows us to observe not just the nimble-mouthed elf of his previous work, but a man in his seventh decade expunging his darker secrets and contemplating mortality. Calypso chronicles his latest attempts to come to terms with the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune that life has flung at him ... For Lear the storm is the central metaphor ... For Sedaris a snapping turtle with a partly missing foot and a tumor on its head becomes an unlikely leitmotif ... The brilliance of David Sedaris’s writing is that his very essence, his aura, seeps through the pages of his books like an intoxicating cloud, mesmerizing us so that his logic becomes ours ... The geeks really do inherit the earth.
Two things David Sedaris is talking about more than he used to: Donald Trump and death. The essay collection Calypso, his first in five years, finds the beloved humorist rejiggering his tone — right along with much of the country — to meet a newly somber national mood. Or maybe it’s just the shadow of late middle age: the looming reality of mortality, the increasing pervasion of funerals and illnesses and retirements in one man’s orbit. It’s hard to tell exactly from where the motivation for the shift stems. And indeed, therein lies Sedaris’ genius — he reflects the culture inwardly. Through his peculiar mind, Sedaris captures biting truths, documenting with journalistic precision his quiet public indignities and milking them for all their tragicomic worth.
He’s still someone who makes his thoughts amusing for millions of people, but his thoughts have changed. His observations have gotten crueler ... Sedaris is fascinated and repelled by people, but he needs them around to feed his clever misanthropy. Sometimes his antics seem as if they were cultivated just for the story he would share about them later ... Sedaris’s most fruitful subject, as it has been for years, is his family. It is the source of both his best humor and his deepest pathos ... When something pains Sedaris the most, he shuts down his fabulous voice and lets the stark events unfold with practically no comment, prompting readers to go back and make sure we read that horrible detail correctly ... Whether it’s a compulsion or a decision, Sedaris isn’t holding back anymore.