David Sedaris is best known for his
piercing, side-splittingly funny tales of personal (mis)adventure.
In collections like Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day and
When You Are Engulfed in Flames he has documented the
difficulties of growing up gay, the rigours of OCD, the joys of pot
and cigarettes, the foibles of his fellow man, the endless
idiosyncrasies of his family members. Life’s weirdness never seems
to weary him, and in countless stories and essays now he has nimbly
trodden the fine line between detached observer and active, often
On first glance then Squirrel Seeks
Chipmunk, a collection of darkly capricious animal fables,
represents something of a departure for the bestselling raconteur.
Sedaris’s whimsical weltarschauung and inimitable penchant
for the absurd, however, shine through as keenly as ever, and the
animal kingdom, as it turns out, contains more than its fair share
Handsomely illustrated by Ian Falconer,
each of the book’s 16 stories involves a different species and their
diverse daily interactions. A pair of storks bicker over sex
education techniques, a mink swaps his own pelt for a bottle of
Kahlua, a setter remonstrates with a raccoon (‘Go trash somebody
else’s fucking yard’) and gives her frank opinion of chickens (‘Each
and every one of them a raging asshole’), ensuring the work more
than lives up to its subtitle A Wicked Bestiary. Via this
motley crew of critters Sedaris pokes fun at humankind through a
filter of allegory, but it’s abundantly clear the prime targets are
animals of the two-legged variety, as opposed to the feathered,
furry protagonists that dot the book’s 139 pages.
Slender but never lean on ideas,
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is more an accomplished diversion than a
major entry in the Sedaris canon, with tails and roar replacing the
usual uproarious tales. It’s nonetheless a cagey and well-crafted
outing that will do well to tide fans over until the next edition of
essays hits the New York Times bestseller list.