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Calypso -Book Review


Book Title: Calypso

Author: David Sedaris

Pages: 259 (Brief “About the Author” on the last page.)


The reviews online claimed this book was absolutely hilarious, the person I borrowed the book from claimed she read the same reviews. Neither of us found the book even remotely funny. The first time I laughed was on page 25, was I supposed to laugh before that page? As I read the book I kept asking myself, “What am I missing?” Is it the wrong tone, am I missing the sarcasm? I couldn’t tell what I was missing but I knew I didn’t find the book even remotely funny.

The book is supposed to have a dark humor about it, a sort of dry sense of humor if you will. I have an odd sense of humor myself, I thought maybe the book would be better suited for me than the person I borrowed the book from. I was wrong, I agreed with her, the book was not my style either. While reading, I found it hard to read and hard to get through, even though it was written in plain English with no real difficulty to it. I wasn’t looking for a challenge, but I was hoping to at least be entertained.

As I spoke with the other person who read the book, she mentioned it was like reading the diary of a person you don’t know. Part of you is curious but you have no context with the original author, you don’t understand their humor or their despair, as I finished the book I realized I couldn’t relate to this man’s humor. I also heard this all before in one sense or another as I was growing up. None of this was new or daring for me, it was quite simply, normal. Growing up, I would sit around a campfire with adults and listen to the way they spoke. They often had a dark sense of humor when they got together. I realized that most of the jokes in this book had been joked about in my life before and therefore the joke was no longer funny. You know, when you have a really funny joke but the person you’re telling just doesn’t get it, now you have to explain it to them and by the end of you explaining it, it’s no longer funny, even to you. Yeah, that was this book for me.

I wrote down all the times I laughed because for a “hilarious read” I wasn’t laughing much.

(Page 25:) ” “Just awful,” my father whispered. “A person’s life reduced to one lousy box.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “Actually there are two of them.” He corrected himself. “Two lousy boxes.” “

(Page 109:) “Later, over coffee, we got onto the subject of elderly parents. Janet’s mother is eighty-nine and is in excellent physical and mental health. “Unlike my friend Phil’s mother,” she said. “This was a woman who never missed a church service, who was an absolute pillar of her community. Then she got dementia and became a different person.” She poured me more coffee. “The last time Phil saw her, she leaned over in her wheelchair and at the top of her voice said, ‘Hitler wants my pussy.’ “

(Page 120:) “When the time came, I was standing by the side of the road, collecting trash with my grabber. It’s generally the same crap over and over–potato-chip bags, candy wrappers, Red Bull cans–but along this particular stretch, six months earlier, I’d come across a strap-on penis. It seemed pretty old and was Band-Aid colored, about three inches long and not much bigger around than a Vienna sausage, which was interesting to me. You’d think that if someone wanted a sex toy she’d go for the gold, sizewise. But this was just the bare minimum, like getting AAA breast implants. Who had this person been hoping to satisfy, her Cabbage Patch doll? I thought about taking the penis home and mailing it to one of my sisters for Christmas but knew that the moment I put it in my knapsack, I’d get hit by a car and killed. That’s just my luck. Medics would come and scrap me off the pavement, then, later, at the hospital, they’d rifle through my pack and record its contents: four garbage bags, some wet wipes, two flashlights, and a strap-on penis. 

“There must be some mistake,” Hugh would tell them. “You said it was how big?”

With that last one, I know it’s a long passage but I really wanted to display the context. The man often writes about walking and picking up garbage but the two parts of that passage I found funny were him getting hit by a car after picking up a strap-on penis (mentioning his luck.) And the part of them going through his belongings at the hospital (to his lover’s disbelief.) I wanted you to understand more of what he was trying to say than just those two parts because they might not seem as funny if I just said the two specific parts I found funny.

The rest of the world may find this book funny or even hilarious, I did not. I would not recommend a single person I know, or couples for that matter, to read this book. I obviously will never tell someone NOT to read a book because we all have different opinions. Never will I tell a person that the book even exists, except right now. But I’m telling you because I took the time to read this book and it’s about time to post a review and I haven’t read or prepared any other books for a review. Here we are, me, stuck telling you about a book I did not enjoy and a book I do not even want to tell anyone about. I don’t want to admit I read this book but I did, so there’s that. (David if you’re reading this, “there’s that” could be a phrase you’d put on your Ban list, however, I’d still use it regardless.)

I wanted to end this review with one last quote from the book, in case David should be reading this, or in case you think I was a bit unfair or harsh, a quote of his that encouraged me to post this review anyway:

“Then I realized that it didn’t mean anything. Opinions constantly shifted and evolved, were fluid the same way thoughts were. Ten minutes into The Exorcist you might say, “This is boring.” An hour later you could decide that it was the best thing you’d ever seen, and it was no different with people. The villain at three in the afternoon might be the hero by sunset. It was all just storytelling.” (Pages 166-167)

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