David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day Essay Summary Writing

Book Summary

Tells a most unconventional life story. "Original, acid, and wild" --said the Los Angeles Times. Written as 17 autobiographical essays.

"As far as I was concerned, the French could be cold or even openly hostile. They could burn my flag or pelt me with stones, but if there were taxidermied kittens to be had then I would go and bring them back to this, the greatest country on earth."

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 none other. "Original, acid, and wild" --said the Los Angeles Times to every unforgettable encounter.

Chapter One
Go Carolina

ANYONE WHO WATCHES EVEN THE SLIGHTEST amount of TV is familiar with the scene: An agent knocks on the door of some seemingly ordinary home or office. The door opens, and the person holding the knob is asked to identify himself. The agent then says, "I'm going to ask you to come with me."

They're always remarkably calm, these agents. If asked "Why do I need to go anywhere with you?" they'll straighten their shirt cuffs or idly brush stray hairs from the sleeves of their sport coats and say, "Oh, I think we both know why."

The suspect then chooses between doing things the hard way and doing things the easy way, and the scene ends with either gunfire or the gentlemanly application of handcuffs. Occasionally it's a case of mistaken identity, but most often the suspect knows exactly why he's being taken. It seems he's been expecting this to happen. The anticipation has ruled his life, and now, finally, the wait is over. You're sometimes led to believe ...

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David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000) is a New York Times best-selling collection of humorous, autobiographical essays. Sedaris has mastered the art of self-deprecating humor. His radio debut was on the NPR's Morning Edition in 1992, where he read his hilarious and now-popular essay “SantaLand Diaries," tales of his experiences working as a Santa elf for a large department store. Shortly after his NPR performance, he was awarded a two-book deal with a major publisher and has since written numerous other best-sellers and frequently performs his works on stage. Me Talk Pretty One Day is Sedaris’s third book.

The twenty-eight essays in Me Talk Pretty One Day cover some of Sedaris’s more awkward school experiences growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina. For example, in the essay “Go Carolina,” Sedaris relates his first encounter with the school speech therapist, who attempted to cure the author’s lisp. Sedaris found it curious that though there were other students who were equally humiliated by being called out of class for special training to rid themselves of speech impediments, it never seemed to be the popular or cute students.

The stories continue as the author moves through several colleges as he tries to decide what to do with his life. Most of these stories make fun of the author, but Sedaris is not shy of also putting members of his family in the spotlight. In the essay called “You Can’t Kill the Rooster,” Sedaris picks on his youngest brother Paul and Paul’s frequent use of curse words. Paul, born at the end of the line of six children, was raised by more relaxed parents. In this particular essay, Sedaris points out that Paul got to do so much more than the older kids were allowed.

When Sedaris moves to Paris with his boyfriend, Hugh, he takes with him his ability to find humor in humiliating situations. In the title essay, “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” Sedaris tries to become more proficient in speaking French but is embarrassed by the teacher. In “The City of Lights in the Dark,” Sedaris admits that he spends much of his time in Paris watching dubbed American movies.

This collection proved so popular that movie director Wayne Wang made an offer to adapt the essays to film. Sedaris agreed for a while, and then changed his mind. He was worried about how his family would be portrayed and backed out of the deal.

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