Me talk pretty one day

by David Sedaris

Hardcover, 2000

Status

Available

Publication

Boston : Little, Brown & Co. c2000.

Description

Me Talk Pretty One Day contains far more than just the funniest collection of autobiographical essays - it quite well registers as a manifesto about language itself. Wherever there's a straight line, you can be sure that Sedaris lurks beneath the text, making it jagged with laughter; and just where the fault lines fall, he sits mischievously perched at the epicenter of it all. David Sedaris's new collection, Me Talk Pretty One Day, tells a most unconventional life story. It begins with a North Carolina childhood filled with speech-therapy classes ("There was the lisp, of course, but more troubling than that was my voice itself, with its excitable tone and high, girlish pitch") and unwanted guitar lessons taught by a midget. From budding performance artist ("The only crimp in my plan was that I seemed to have no talent whatsoever") to "clearly unqualified" writing teacher in Chicago, Sedaris's career leads him to New York (the sky's-the-limit field of furniture moving) and eventually, of all places, France. Sedaris's move to Paris poses a number of challenges, chief among them his inability to speak the language. Arriving a "spooky man-child" capable of communicating only through nouns, he undertakes language instruction that leads him ever deeper into cultural confusion. Whether describing the Easter bunny to puzzled classmates, savoring movies in translation (It is Necessary to save the Soldier Ryan), or watching a group of men play soccer with a cow, Sedaris brings a view and a voice like no other--"Original, acid, and wild," said the Los Angeles Times--to every unforgettable encounter."--Jacket.… (more)

Media reviews

Whereas ''Naked'' reads like a series of overlapping autobiographical essays, this volume feels more like a collection of magazine pieces or columns on pressing matters like the care and feeding of family pets and the travails of dining in Manhattan. But if Mr. Sedaris sometimes sounds as though he were making do with leftover material, ''Talk Pretty'' still makes for diverting reading.
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The gifted Sedaris has not been hard enough on himself. At the risk of sounding patronizing, I suspect there is a better writer in there than he is as yet willing to let out.
This collection is, in its way, damned by its own ambitious embrace of variety; with so many pieces assembled, the stronger ones always punish the weaker... But reading or listening to David Sedaris is well worth the lulls for the thrills.

User reviews

LibraryThing member riofriotex
I liked this one better than Sedaris’ "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim." It seemed to have more of a unifying theme. The lead-off anecdote in the book, “Go Carolina,” is about Sedaris’ struggles as a child in speech therapy with his lisp. The title story refers to Sedaris’ efforts to learn to speak French, and many of the other tales were also about Sedaris’ life in France and the humorous situations his difficulties with the language caused. As before, it’s very enjoyable to listen to Sedaris read his own narratives on the audiobook, with two yarns told before live audiences. Unfortunately, this audiobook version was abridged, missing 6 stories out of the 27 from the print book… (more)
LibraryThing member TadAD
I found this a very uneven collection of essays. I don't know if they are typical of Sedaris or not; this is my first foray into his writing. My overwhelming impression of the first essays in the book was that they were written by a mean-spirited adolescent smirking at life from the fringes—one who thought he was amusing but, actually, was just annoying.

I enjoy cranky essayists, but I expect them to have something that they do like when venting their thoughts on something they don't. I sensed none of that in these essays...just pushing nouns up against verbs in order to blow something up, not to point to something better. When poking fun at his brother for being white trash, I couldn't help but think...were his brother any other way...Sedaris would be poking at him for being white bread. When ranting about computers being inferior to typewriters, I couldn't help but feel that, if the former didn't exist, he'd be ranting that typewriters were nothing compared to the fountain pen.

Once he gets to France, I found some of this impression eased and I laughed a bit more. His encounter with the Americans who thought him to be French was quite funny.

However, in the final analysis, I never found myself overcome with laughter such as when I read Trillin or someone of that ilk. Sedaris just isn't my cup of tea.
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LibraryThing member bragan
This collection of humorous personal essays is divided into two sections. In Part One, Sedaris mostly talks about his childhood, his family, and his life. Part Deux is mostly about his time living in France, especially his attempts to learn the language. Both parts, of course, are written with his usual droll, slightly off-kilter sense of humor, which he deploys consistently throughout the whole book. There is often, though, an odd undercurrent of poignancy or vulnerability or... something, which might almost feel a little uncomfortable to read if you weren't busy laughing at it. I kind of admire Sedaris's ability to make that work.… (more)
LibraryThing member KevlarRelic
Maybe it's just me. (And judging from the other reviews here: it IS.) But this book wasn't very funny for me, in fact it was down-right painful to finish it all the way.

Perhaps the fact that I, too, have gone through the process of learning French as a second language is to blame. He never really said anything I, or someone I know, hadn't already noticed.

Or maybe the reason I didn't like this book is because I have a hard time relating to a frivolous- to- the- point- of- insanity gay man. Who knows?

I didn't enjoy this book one iota. Don't read it. Don't let other people read it. Don't even look at it's LT page. WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE? ESCAPE WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
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LibraryThing member ladydzura
I've been meaning to read something by David Sedaris for ages -- at least since my freshman year of college, and that was... yikes, eight years ago? (And now you can see exactly how far on my to-read list that I actually am.) I finally started in on Me Talk Pretty One Day and gobbled it up.

Each chapter in the book is its own story (I'm tempted to call them vignettes, but I'm not sure as to the accuracy of the term), and the first half of the book focuses mainly on Sedaris's formative and college years. In the opening story, Sedaris relates his experience with speech therapy in fifth grade. Having been diagnosed with a 'lazy tongue' by his speech therapist, he begins a mission to avoid the letter S whenever possible.

"'Yes,' became 'correct', or a military 'affirmative.' 'Please' became' with your kind permission,' and questions were pleaded rather than asked. After a few weeks of what she called 'endless pestering' and what I called 'repeated badgering,' my mother bought my a pocket thesaurus, which provided me with s-free alternatives to just about everything. I consulted the book both at home in my room and at the daily learning academy other people called our school. Agent Samson was not amused when I began referring to her as an articulation coach, but the majority of my teachers were delighted." (pg. 11)

In the book's second half, Sedaris is living in France and battling the language and culture barrier. Personally, I found this second part to be better than the first, possibly because I could relate a little more to his adventures with masculine and feminine articles.

"It's a pretty grim world when I can't even feel superior to a toddler. Tired of embarrassing myself in front of two-year-olds, I've started referring to everything in the plural, which can get expensive but has solved a lot of my problems. [...] A masculine kilo of feminine tomatoes presents a sexual problem easily solved by asking for two kilos of tomatoes. I've started using the plural while shopping, and Hugh has stated using it in our cramped kitchen, where he stands huddled in the corner, shouting, 'What do we need with four pounds of tomatoes?' [...] Hugh tells me the market is off-limits until my French improves. he's pretty steamed, but I think he'll get over it when he sees the CD players I got him for his birthday." (pg. 191)

Sedaris also deals with the challenge of trying to explain Easter -- in his fledgling French -- to a fellow language student. This particular chapter had me laughing out loud, and also annoying my mother. But when I made her stop what she was doing -- it's okay, she was only watching the news -- to read it, she cracked up herself.

I'm not sure that David Sedaris is for everybody -- he has a dry delivery style, and if you read too quickly, you might miss some of the less-in-your-face funny bits. I totally enjoyed this book, though, and will probably pick up another of his books in the near future.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
My first introduction to David Sedaris was an essay in The New Yorker chronicling his trip to Amsterdam while in the midst of house hunting in Paris. He saw Anne Frank's house and all he could think was that if it wasn't a historical home it would be the perfect flat!

Sedaris' irreverence and dry humor sucked me in so completely. Nothing is sacred.

Me Talk Pretty One Day was the first of his books I read and after that I knew I was hooked. It remains my favorite of his, though that might be because it was my first. It's a collection of 26 essays, mainly dealing with Sedaris' personal life and experiences.

Whether he telling stories about his unconventional family, dealing with a lisp or trying to learn how to speak French, he brings an absurdity to the most banal situations.

"You Can't Kill the Rooster" is Sedaris' story about his hillbilly brother... who refers to himself as "the rooster." It's one of my favorites in the bunch. I first read it, then later listened to Sedaris read it and it literally made me laugh so hard I was crying. He does a squealing, high-pitched imitation of his brother's voice, which is too ridiculous to be far from the truth.

Yes Sedaris can be crude and occasionally the situations he finds himself in are a bit disturbing, but he tells the stories in a way that's irresistible. I once attended a reading he gave and was thrilled to discover he was even funnier in person. If you've never read anything of his I would highly recommend starting with this book and get the audio version if you can!

"I noticed an uncommon expression on Alisha's face. It was the look of someone who's discovered too late that she's either set her house on fire or committed herself to traveling with the wrong person."
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LibraryThing member akosikulot-project52
This being my first book by David Sedaris, I have come to berate myself for not having been acquianted with him sooner. Me Talk Pretty One Day contains short stories all tied around the theme of miscommunication and the struggle to convey what was meant to be said. Unlike other short story collections, however, I didn't find myself running into any one that was boring or altogether uninteresting; every single one of Sedaris's recounts - from his experience with a speech therapist trying to correct his lisp to his foray into guitar-playing on the insistence of his father, trying to learn French, his short stints as a creative writing workshop teacher and furniture mover, and the insanity that is his sister Amy - all these and more were written in the a-giggle-then-and-now way instead of your usual over-the-top, laugh-out-loud approach. Sedaris reminds me of Augusten Burroughs minus the crazy childhood and trying relationships; sure, he's had his share of insane situations, but his self-depreciation is coupled with such a great sense of humor and the subtlety with which he lets his readers know that not everything has to be taken seriously. My favorite short, "Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist," contains my favorite quote from the book - a quote that up until now still cracks me up, because I find it true, in a way, and because it's a perfect example of Sedaris's wise-guy humor: "True art was based upon despair, and the important thing was to make yourself and those around you as miserable as possible."… (more)
LibraryThing member CaraLPeacock
I love David Sedaris' writing! He is so unafraid to make fun of himself and the people around him. I have read several of his books and usually rate them as a 4 or a 5. If you ever get the chance to listen to David Sedaris read his work, you should! I have a couple of his books on my iTunes and have listened to them repeatedly. He reads with so much gusto. I like to listen to him read while I'm jogging -- unfortunately, the people that live in my neighborhood think I'm crazy because I'm running down the street laughing hysterically.… (more)
LibraryThing member jmoncton
My first David Sedaris book. I can definitely see why he has such a strong fan base. Sarcastic, yet witty. Loved his story about his experience learning French!
LibraryThing member engpunk77
I just LOVE him. Pretty soon, I'll be done with all of his books and I'll miss him.
LibraryThing member Kiwiria
A friend "forced" me to buy this when I met her in NYC last year. I'd heard David Sedaris mentioned in passing before, but never read anything by him, and as I trust M's judgement I went for it :)

I'm not quite sure I get the point of books like this (or "Travelling Mercies" or "Pitching My Tent" which are the same style). I don't mean that negatively, because as the rating indicates I clearly liked it, but it's not quite a memoir, not quite an autobiography... so what is it? What made the author choose to write this book of seemingly unconnected anecdotes, and what is it that made it so interesting for people to read? (And if he can't, why can't I? ;) )

I still don't have a good answer to those questions, but have simply come to the conclusion that whether or not I understand the purpose of them, I do enjoy books like this, and that may be purpose enough. I especially enjoyed reading about David Sedaris' troubles with learning the French language. I never felt that way about learning English (fortunately), but it reminded me very vividly of my experience with learning German... a language that I never took to, and have now mostly forgotten, but where I found myself grasping for words and coming up with exceedingly more convulted sentences as I tried to find the words I needed, and avoid any use of gender-based grammar!
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LibraryThing member CloggieDownunder
Me Talk Pretty One Day is the 6th book of collected essays by David Sedaris. In part one, Sedaris touches on speech therapy for his lisp at school, guitar lessons from a midget, inherited traits, artistic talent, sibling swearing, family pets, working as a teacher, toilet legacies, odd jobs, eating out in NYC, visitors to NYC, outward appearances, and technophobia. Part two focuses mainly on his life with his partner Hugh in France and explores travelling to France, taking French language lessons, feast days, the sex of words, Hugh’s childhood in Africa, word puzzles, movie subtitles, the behaviour of vacationing Americans, epic daydreams, food economy and IQ tests. My favourite chapter was Jesus Shaves. I tried to read this to friends but dissolved into laughter every time. Sedaris has the reader constantly smiling, chuckling, giggling and often laughing out loud. Sedaris is witty, and clever and reading his work is an unalloyed pleasure.… (more)
LibraryThing member sophiawestern
I read Me Talk Pretty One Day on the recommendation of my roommate, the fabulous WER. She gave me her copy of the book, so with a strong recommendation and a free read, I couldn’t possibly refuse.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is a rough autobiography of writer and humorist David Sedaris. I say a “rough” autobiography because it is not told in chronological order, nor is it a straightforward chronological account of the events of his life. Instead, he presents life as a series of vignettes, some of which are from when he was a small child (such as his struggles with his speech therapist), from his college years (and his dabbling in drugs and performance art), with the last 1/3 chronicling his experiences as an American in France.

Me Talk Pretty One Day is extremely funny in parts. As a New Yorker, I especially liked his observations working for a moving company in New York City. (As anyone who has lived in New York long enough can tell you, conversations inevitably always turn to real estate if you get m ore than two of us in a room together). For example:

It was generally agreed that a coffin-size studio on Avenue D was preferable to living in one of the boroughs. Moving from one Brooklyn or Staten Island neighborhood to another was fine, but unless you had children to think about, even the homeless saw it as a step down to leave Manhattan. Customers quitting the island for Astoria or Cobble Hill would claim to welcome the change of pace, saying it would be nice to finally have a garden or live a little closer to the airport. They’d put a good face one it, but one could always detect an underlying sense of defeat. The apartments might bigger and cheaper in other places, but one could never count on their old circle of friend making the long trip to attend a birthday party. Even Washington Heights was considered a stretch. People referred to it as Upstate New York, though it was right there in Manhattan.

However, I found that autobiographies (no matter how good they are) often become relentlessly self-indulgent in parts, and this book is no exception to the rule. For instance, in one vignette Sedaris describes a series of dreams that he often has. This particular section doesn’t fit as well with his other stories about living in France and seemed to drag on and on.

All in all, not great literature, but a fun read nevertheless. I read it on the plane ride from New York to Amsterdam, and it was perfect for that kind of trip. Mindless and entertaining, to pass the time.
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LibraryThing member rakerman
Supposedly hilarious. I don't think I laughed once.
LibraryThing member -Eva-
I had heard a lot about Sedaris when I picked up this book and I am quite disappointed. It's actually painful when he attempts wittiness and only comes across as whiny - I even found myself feeling sorry for him at times. Or, even worse, thinking him patronizing (to the reader), haughty (to his fellow characters), and, well, just whiny. That doesn't mean that there are no funny stories in this book. The story about the dog(s) had me chuckling, and Sedaris' ever butchering the French language is equally funny. Not to mention the Israeli ex-intelligence officer who can't figure out if his best friend who is hitting on him is gay. However, as a whole, the laughs were too few and the "clever observations" a little too unoriginal, and I won't go searching for more of his writing.… (more)
LibraryThing member rampaginglibrarian
This one i still haven't finished because it's been riding around in my car forever--i keep it there for reading for those times i get stuck somewhere with nothing to do (a nightmare for a reader) and Sedaris is just right for those times.
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
This book made me laugh until I cried, especially the part where his French class is trying to explain Easter using their limited vocabulary. I highly recommend listening to this as an audiobook, as well, because Sedaris is a great reader.
LibraryThing member stricken
This is the book that made me fall in love with David Sedaris. It is him at his funniest.
LibraryThing member AmandaSo
David Sedaris is a sick, sick puppy, and thank God for that. His twisted telling of tales from his drug-adled, performance artist past are hilarious. Warning: Do not read this book in a public place, unless you enjoy being looked at by people as if you're a giggling idiot.
LibraryThing member Summersoldier
Laugh out loud funny. I especially loved listening to him read it on CD afterwards. He has a very unusual voice and his sarcastic monotone at funny parts make it even more hysterical.
LibraryThing member sweetmarie9
One of my favorite books of all time. I refer to it constantly. I got to meet David Sedaris when he came to Chicago last year. Very funny guy.
LibraryThing member Nateparrish
Kind of an account of this guys life. Sort of dull. But I liked how you could really start reading at any chapter.
LibraryThing member acurley
Before reading this book I had stubbornly contested that the written word was not as funny as the spoken word (9/10 of comedy being in the delivery). I must say that after reading this, I am a converted man. Although some of the essays lacked flare and the book was a little uneven, I have to give Sedaris five stars on this one just because it changed my perceptions on literary humor.… (more)
LibraryThing member TanyaTomato
Ok I'm sorry Augusten you are not so far below David in comparison. There was a couple unfulfilling chapters in this book, but otherwise very funny and enjoyable.
LibraryThing member stacyinthecity
To me, David Sedaris seems like a pretty unlikeable fellow. He seems a little too cocky, and a bit ego centric. He goes to a foreign country, only to watch American movies in the theatre, which is probably the antithesis of what I stand for!

And yet, he writes with such charm and wit that I couldn't help but find myself liking him as a protagonist.

I loved his description of life in NYC, and even though I didn't always want to, I often found myself if not agreeing with him, at least smiling in understanding of his experience.

All in all, a wonderful collection of essays to introduce me to David Sedaris. Now I need to decide should I persue his material further, or stop here? As I mentioned, I found him to be an often times unlikeable fellow, and many times what got me through a section was his description of other countries or NYC (two of my favorite topics). I'm not sure what the rest of his writing is like.
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