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Calypso by David Sedaris
Essays

Calypso

by David Sedaris

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Quick take

The one-and-only David Sedaris's latest collection may be his most poignant, hilarious, and sharp-eyed yet.

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Synopsis

If you've ever laughed your way through David Sedaris's cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think you know what you're getting with Calypso. You'd be wrong. When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is exactly as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: It's impossible to take a vacation from yourself.

With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: These stories are very, very funny—it's a book that can make you laugh till you snort, the way only family can. Sedaris's writing has never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.

This is beach reading for people who detest beaches, required reading for those who loathe small talk and love a good tumor joke. Calypso is simultaneously Sedaris's darkest and warmest book yet—and it just might be his very best.

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Why I love it

When I worked as a bookseller, the thing I dreaded hearing more than anything was, “I want to read something funny.” In my experience, you could fill a canyon with books that are sad or poignant, or full of mystery or romance. But trying to find a book that will make someone actually laugh is tremendously difficult. Luckily, every three or four years, David Sedaris comes out with another uproarious essay collection to help in that department.

Sedaris is the king of translating his observations and experiences into witty pieces that can also be tremendously moving. He addresses serious subjects effortlessly, never more so than in Calypso, which primarily tackles the subject of aging, a topic Sedaris works into astute observations on his need for—and fear of—a physical, his siblings’ health issues, or his father (who takes a spin class at the age of 91!). Whether it’s a story about shopping in Japan, his beach house, his family, his Fitbit obsession, his sister’s death, or astrology, he always turns his wit to the task of dissecting the nuances of being human, which, I think, takes far more talent than being just raunchy or shocking.

Sedaris is smart and clever, but also delightfully shameless (he is a master at the humble brag), occasionally naughty (the brainstorming session about what to name the beach house is A+ material), and a little strange, too. Instead of quoting something funny from the book, I will just say I started laughing out loud on page two, and I continued to laugh through the whole book (as well as tear up a time or two).

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Member ratings (7,013)

  • Nathan V.

    Prairie Village, KS

    I can’t imagine how hard it would be to write a book that truly makes someone laugh out loud while reading it. I’ve read several “comedy” books over the years but none had me howling out loud as much

  • Barbara S.

    Caldwell, NJ

    Mr. Sedaris uses humor to tackle some darker subjects, like his mother’s alcoholism, his sister’s suicide, his father’s aging and the 2016 presidential election. He forgives no one, including himself.

  • Leslie S.

    Panorama City, CA

    It’s David Sedaris of course I love it. It’s funny, weird with pockets of sentimentality and heart. Best part: where he’s asking people to tell him the most foul-mouthed angry tirade they use or heard

  • Elizabeth B.

    Kennett Square, PA

    I have an ongoing love of David Sedaris. I adore all his books. And although I don’t think Calypso to be as strong as Naked or Me Talk Pretty one Day, I am too much of a fangirl to demote to “likes.”

  • Emily L.

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Another beautiful book of essays and story from the master. These stories are darker and a bit more personal but delivered with David’s signature charm and wit. I laughed out loud throughout. So good!

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