The number one rule in reviewing is never start a review saying you don’t like the genre. You do that and people will discredit everything you say after. Except… it’s really true in this case. Satire and I, we don’t get along. I am not a fan of the literary technique: I usually don’t “get it” and I rarely find it funny.
And yet. I “got” this book, or at least most of it, and I found it quite amusing. It helps that David Sedaris — again, whom I’ve had a bit of a rocky relationship with; I find him hilarious in person, but I don’t think his humor translates in writing for me — is poking fun at people we all know: hairdressers, complainers, obsessive parents, liberals, conservatives, intellectuals, vigilantes; no one is safe from Sedaris’ caricaturization.
That’s not to say that every story works equally well, and truthfully, that may have been me. I really liked the ones I “got”, especially “The Cat and the Baboon,” “The Toad, the Turtle, and the Duck,” “The Parenting Storks” (an excerpt of which I heard on NPR, which led me to pick up the book in the first place), and “The Grieving Owl.” Each of these I found hilarious in their own way; possibly because they are the most accessible, and possibly because I found them funny, knowing people like that (though don’t we all).
Sedaris also balances between humanizing these animals and keeping them in the animal world: nothing really has a happily ever after, and the viciousness is often due to the nature of the animal: a baby stork falls from its nest presumably to its death, a bear is captured and forced to be a part of a circus, the crow eats the baby lamb’s eyeballs. It’s a reminder that, no matter how pretty we try to make it, no matter how human these characters seem, the animal world is a cruel, vicious place. And the overall moral? Nobody’s exempt, no matter what you think.
It’s a weird little collection of stories, and not for everyone. But as far as satire goes, it’s quite good.
Rated: High for violence, numerous instances of the f-word, and other mild swear words.