All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, by David Sedaris, is not a children's book.  The stories are not fables, Sedaris says, because they have no morals, a comment he gleefully made at an appearance in Nashville not long ago.  After a hearty round of laughter from the audience, Sedaris read from Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, which was not yet published.  (In fact, it was fascinating to see him take a pencil from his jacket pocket and make small notes on his text here and there as he read.) 

I mention that I heard a few of them read aloud because hearing him read them is a different experience than reading them yourself.  Reading them yourself provides you with none of his charm or warmth or self-effacing delivery.  And this is also the distinction between some of Sedaris' earlier works and his later ones, including Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

Not that it isn't easy to see yourself or those you know in some of these stories.  "The Cat and the Baboon" for instance, is dead on with its description of conversations that take place between a hairstylist and customer:  the repeated attempts by the stylist or barber to read the customer and make appropriate conversation.  The Baboon tiptoes around her Cat customer's preferences for favorite party foods, "write your own vows" weddings, and harps at weddings.  She was finally able to get agreement from the Cat by talking about dogs and their common dislike for them, even though the Baboon didn't actually feel that way.   

Another story that might strike a chord is "The Mouse and the Snake," the Mouse having the Snake as her "animal companion," convinced that she could communicate with it, and spoiling it with treats.  "The Parenting Storks" strikes firmly at the beliefs people hold and their values.  These stories are not particularly pleasant or comfortable to read.  Not that we find facing hard truths about our society or ourselves difficult, but that there are few, if any, happy endings.  Sedaris' ironic humor feels bitter and jaded.  When read to an audience, they seem lighter and funnier because of his delivery.  When read from a page, they seem to embody an entirely different side of Sedaris. 

Given the feel of the book's content, it seems most incongruous that the book is illustrated by Ian Falconer, the Cadecott Honors book author and illustrator of the Olivia books.  He does a wonderful job as illustrator, but there is quite a difference between Olivia and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk was published in 2010 by Little, Brown and Company.

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