In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all.
... has fewer of these beautifully crafted jewel boxes than Calypso did. However, in addition to being consistently funny, it contains some festive Sedaris occasions for all those who celebrate ... We get a seeming resolution to Sedaris and his father’s lifelong grudge match when Lou tells David, 'You won.' We get vivid moments featuring Lou’s will and Tiffany’s accusations of sexual abuse; Sedaris confesses to offering to pay for a 24-year-old store clerk to have his teeth fixed, and to long ago initiating a bizarre intergenerational family moment while wearing underpants that he’d cut the back out of. We also get the only truly offensive thing, to my knowledge, that Sedaris has ever written ... Some of the pieces in Happy-Go-Lucky seem transitional, as if Sedaris, having already secured his place as a chronicler of dysfunctional families and oddball enthusiasms, is casting his net wider by taking on societal issues. This is a promising direction, but I missed Sedaris’s personal connection to the topics of guns and school shootings in an essay about those topics. Similarly, his essentially gothic bent, when applied to an ongoing crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, can yield statements that whiff faintly of cabbage ... But when you’re dealing with a talent as outsize as Sedaris’s, even the missteps are fairly negligible ... the lasting impression of Happy-Go-Lucky is similar to that of Sedaris’s other books: It’s a neat trick that one writer’s preoccupation with the odd and the inappropriate can have such widespread appeal. As Sedaris once replied to a store employee who’d asked him if he was looking for anything special when gift shopping, 'Grotesque is a plus.'
Readers can decide how they feel about his admission that, at the height of the pandemic, he and Hugh, his partner of more than 30 years, had up to four dinner parties a week, or his reference to the pandemic as 'a golden era for tattletales' who chastised others for wearing their masks improperly ... But he softens the crankiness with that familiar Sedaris charm ... In its often-gloomy way, zingers like that one in Happy-Go-Lucky offer a useful template for anyone dealing with the blues: It's not easy, but, if possible, find humor in even the grimmest of situations. That'll cheer you up.
Memory after memory is evoked, like a droll Proust, but Sedaris is also looking to the future ... He excels when addressing the incomprehensible ... Gloriously politically incorrect at times, he embraces ambiguity. It is a leavening sensibility that seems disturbingly retro in these divided times, and his brilliance lies in his ability to disrupt and comfort. We are lucky to have him.