Friday, November 12, 2010

David Sedaris: Occupational Hazards

Posted By on Fri, Nov 12, 2010 at 7:58 AM

[To repeat, this from the Flyer this week:]

"A white-tailed doe was discovered one morning disemboweled on the banks of the stream, and the residents of the forest went crazy with fear — 'freaked out' was how the sparrow put it. A few days later, a skunk was found, no more than a gnawed-upon skull attached to a short leash of spine. Personality-wise, he'd been no great shakes. Neither was he particularly good-looking, but still! Then a squirrel disappeared, and it was decided that something had to be done."

So something was.

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A gate with a sign reading NO TRESPASSING is erected in the forest to keep out the riffraff. A no-nonsense rabbit elects to stand guard. And before this tale, called "The Vigilant Rabbit," ends, that rabbit has clobbered a laughing snake, a questioning magpie, and an insolent frog. Then the rabbit chews off the horn of a sleeping unicorn. But at least the unicorn survives. No ultimate word on the rabbit, though. When the story closes, the rabbit's staring at the diamond he's coughed up (thanks to the unicorn's magical horn he's swallowed), while, unseen, some unwelcome wolves arrive.

Welcome to one of the 16 not-so-lighthearted stories in David Sedaris' new book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (Little, Brown), illustrated by Ian Falconer.

Rough stuff? Yes, and it includes: a busybody hairdresser — a real baboon — with a bad word about everybody; a bear — a real crybaby — who won't shut up about the loss of her mother; a smooth-talking crow who plucks out the eyes of a lamb (while the lamb's mother is lost in meditation); a cat who's forced to endure the inanities of a prison AA program; and a gerbil who, in a rare case of generosity, agrees to investigate the leeches that live inside the anus of a hippopotamus.

Absurdist stuff? No more absurdist than what's inspired Sedaris: the darker side of human nature.

David Sedaris is signing Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Saturday, November 13th, 3 p.m. Line ticket, with book purchase, required. No photos with the author, please!

But before he's in Memphis on the 13th, there's Sedaris in a car, riding from Providence to Boston, on the morning of the 11th, which is where he opened our conversation on his own terms. The topic: herpes. Call it an occupational hazard:

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