After reading The Narrow Road To The Deep North I needed a break. I’m sure others understand this feeling after reading a hefty novel (either in size or content), the need to take a step back. To reset and relax, ready to take on the next challenge. Knowing I was a few weeks away from seeing David Sedaris live, I figured this was the perfect time to read his latest release, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. And indeed, I read this in three days and felt wiped clean, like I’d just been on holiday or gone without carbohydrates for a week (heaven forbid).
Simply put, David Sedaris tells stories. He is a stunning satirisist, recalling tales of the everyday in biting form. But it is his ability to match this with kindness and heart that makes his writing endure. I’ve been a fan of his for years, and though this isn’t his greatest collection, it still hit the spot. Following on from his previous release Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, where he moved away from sharing secrets and anecdotes from his life, relationship and family, in Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls he moves back to this familiar territory that his fans adore.
‘A Guy Walks In To A Bar Car’ is a beautiful essay about love and awkwardness. About working out who you are through relationships. About the one that got away and the choices you’ve made in becoming who you are. Told through a train trip that Sedaris took in the 80s from his hometown in New York State to Chicago, its vulnerability is incredibly heartening and warm.
At the other end of Sedaris’ style is ‘Now Hiring Friendly People’. I was so glad to see this included in this collection. An absolute highlight of the wonderful This American Life live show from 2012, it is Sedaris at his biting best. The story recounts Sedaris ordering coffee at a counter of a dreary hotel in New Hampshire. The kind of place that announces “proudly serving Starbucks”, despite not being a franchise of the chain. While Sedaris waits, stuck behind a couple who agonisingly choose, wait for and discuss their coffee order, he grows increasingly hostile, in a stunning and hilarious show of antagonism:
“The Dunstons’ bill came to eight dollars, which, everyone agreed, was a lot to pay for two cups of coffee. But they were large ones, and this was a vacation, sort of. Not like the trip to Florida, but you certainly couldn’t do that at the drop of a hat, especially with gas prices the way they are and looking to go even higher”.
As wonderful as it is reading Sedaris’ books, after listening to him on This American Life and seeing him live, I can really appreciate those who choose his audio books over the hard copy version. His voice and mannerisms bring a wonderful reality and extra bite to his satirical stories. You can hear Sedaris read ‘Now Hiring Friendly People’ in Act Four of This American Life Live here - and I highly recommend you do so.
Starting a new job in January, having returned from Christmas and New Year away where I ate everything in sight, I needed something quick and easy for breakfast that was also healthy enough to counteract the holiday excesses. This vanilla chia pudding recipe from Pastry Affair was a perfect match. I make it using regular full cream milk, not the almond milk as listed here and it is delicious. I choose not to use the maple syrup – the berries and full cream milk make it sweet enough for me first thing in the morning. Making it the night before and leaving it overnight meant it was ready to go in the morning, just requiring a few berries on top to cut through the richness and to add extra flavour and vitamins. I may end up serving it in a portable container so I can run out the door with it, but it is still a sustaining and healthy way to start the day. Reset, relaxed, ready to take on 2014.
A new year also brings new and exciting book releases. This Huffington Post article lists ’30 Books You NEED To Read in 2014’, which, though carries a rather alarmist title, does show some very promising titles to look forward to throughout the year.