12 June 2024

Review: Happy Go Lucky by David Sedaris

Happy Go Lucky by David Sedaris audiobook cover

Hard to believe, but Happy-Go-Lucky is my sixth book by David Sedaris. I've listened to all of them on audiobook and I just love his sing song rhythm of reflection and storytelling. After a while, I find myself yearning to hear more of his stories and this time - thankfully - I wasn't disappointed.

I've acknowledged in previous reviews that David's white privilege is on full display but it doesn't get under my skin in the same way it does - or has - for other readers. We already know he's white and wealthy and gay, so taking offence with his privilege isn't quite fair. What other lived experience can he offer?

My key takeaway from listening to Happy-Go-Lucky was a chapter called A Speech to the Graduates which comprised a commencement address Sedaris gave to graduates at Oberlin College. Recorded in 2018, you can watch it for free here. I found the speech so entertaining I listened to it twice and asked my husband to listen to it with me. If asked to choose between Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman (a renowned speech to graduates if there ever was one) and this one, I'd be hard pressed to choose between them. They're completely dissimilar in style, but what they share in common is an ability to inspire young listeners to take risks, make mistakes and make the most of life.

The chapter entitled Active Shooter documents the author's experience going to a firing range for the first time with his sister Lisa.
"This was a niche market I knew nothing about until I returned to Lisa's house later that day and went online. There I found websites selling gun concealment vests, t-shirts, jackets you name it. One company makes boxer briefs with a holster in the back which they call compression concealment shorts, but which I would call gunderpants." Chapter: Active Shooter
Definitely more entertaining than David Thorne's reminiscences about hunting in the USA for the first time in That's Not How You Wash a Squirrel.

As he mentions in his speech to the graduates, Sedaris recommends the practice of having a few jokes up your sleeve at any given time. In a chapter entitled Themes and Variations, the author proceeds to tell some of the best jokes he's heard from fans on book signing tours which had me laughing out loud and often. The two most memorable included a snail's reaction and two priests in a car, while the anecdote offered regarding two rolling pins and falling down the stairs had me laughing so hard I was red-faced with tears streaming down my face.

Sedaris always manages to deliver both light and dark and in Happy-Go-Lucky he bravely discloses his father's declining health, surprising personality changes and eventual death:
"... our natures, I have just recently learned from my father, can change. Or maybe they're simply revealed, and the dear cheerful man I saw that afternoon at Springmore was there all along, smothered in layers of rage and impatience that burned away as he blazed into the home stretch." Chapter: Happy-Go-Lucky
Sedaris has previously written about living in France and learning the language, and in this offering published in 2022, he remembers what it was like during his first few visits, smiling and pretending to know what was going on.
"It was so humbling being robbed of my personality like that. I was never the smartest guy in the room but I could usually hold my own. In Normandy though, I was considered an idiot. Worse still, I couldn't get a laugh to save my life. In America, that was my thing, my identity." Chapter: Bruised
Books that can make me laugh until I cry usually earn an automatic 5 stars from me, but two chapters bothered me a little. The first was about a young male and the second was a chapter entitled Lady Marmalade where the author shared a controversial view about his sister Tiffany's accusations of abuse by their father. While these views were shared by other family members, it's not a topic I was comfortable hearing about or thought was appropriate to share with the public. Nevertheless, I'm not surprised Sedaris chose to work through these questions in the way he knows best, writing.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!