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Sedaris remains predictably funny in 'Owls'

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 6:03 p.m.
Fans of David Sedaris will find that his newest offering, “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” is cause for celebration.

If you are a David Sedaris fan, any new book from the humorist is cause for celebration.

His newest offering, “Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls,” is no exception. It's quintessential Sedaris, which, at first glance, could be troubling.

Sedaris is the master of pointing out the absurd in everyday life, and, at times, it feels as if there's a certain sameness to his work. A well-trod road. Take readers to a certain place, surprise them with a quirky observation, move on. Repeat.

But true Sedaris fans know there's always a laugh-out-loud moment just around the corner, on the next page perhaps, and all is right with the world again. There are far worse sins than being predictably funny. And he is.

This newest collection of essays, however, seems a bit uneven. One essay about a redneck's reaction to same-sex marriage doesn't work. It is decidedly unfunny. But there are enough essays worth the time.

The essay titled “Atta Boy,” for instance. Remember your father, who would never take your side if he caught you in the wrong? Remember being punished? Then you'll love this essay, which points out the absurdity of today's child-rearing techniques in which the child is never, ever wrong.

Or “Standing By,” the essay on air travel. Wonder what people are thinking when they get dressed to go to an airport? So does Sedaris.

“I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me. It's as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, ‘(Expletive) this! I'm going to Los Angeles!'”

He also includes confessions from flight attendants. You'll never think of the term “crop-dusting” the same way again.

For anyone who is obsessed with litter on the roadside, as this reader is, “Rubbish” will be the essay that steals your heart. Sedaris and his partner, Hugh, have moved to the English countryside, a countryside Sedaris discovers is littered with trash. So what does he do? Yes, trash bags in hand.

“Pick up litter, and people assume that it's your punishment, part of your court-mandated community service,” he writes, admitting that he'll be right out there again the next morning.

And perhaps a sign that Sedaris is maturing is his essay “Memory Laps,” in which he tells of his repeated attempts as a young boy to get his father's attention. Still poignant after all these years.

Craig Wilson is a staff writer for USA Today.

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