When I first realized that David Sedaris’s new book, “A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003-2020),” was an actual collection of his personal diary entries, I thought, “Well, that’s a little conceited.” And then when I learned that this is not his first published collection of diaries but his second, I thought, “Jeez, who asked?” The idea of publishing your personal diary entries to me sounded quite bizarre. What’s the point, and why would anyone want to read it?
For those unfamiliar with his work, Sedaris is an American humorist and author whose work is featured in The New Yorker and has many a time landed him a spot on The New York Times Best Sellers list. His personal essays and books are ostensibly autobiographical and self-deprecating, with a knack for transforming mundane events and observations in his life into funny stories. His books of personal essays include “Naked,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” and “Calypso,” as well as his first collection of diaries “Theft By Finding: Diaries (1997-2002)”.
In “A Carnival of Snackery” Sedaris gives us a glimpse into his personal life and the inner workings of his mind. His focus is on the little things, the minute details of everyday life that we consistently overlook: The idiosyncrasies of brief interactions with strangers; odd appearances; non-sequiturs dropped in small talk; mild inconveniences of everyday life. Sedaris’s diary entries are chock-full of odd thoughts and observations. Clearly, Sedaris is not lacking in curiosity. As he spends copious amounts of time traveling on tour, many of the entries are travel logs and recountings of his many social interactions. Some entries just include a joke he heard that day — the type of dad joke that makes you groan but chuckle at the same time (“A bear and a pony go to a karaoke bar. ‘Why don’t you sing?’ asks the bear, and the pony explains that he’s a little horse”). His entries are short and sweet, compact and considered, delivered with a twist at the end that will put a wry smile on your face.
Sedaris’s entries span 17 years, from ages 47 to 64. He moves from Paris to London and then to New York. He watches friends and family grow old, social media rise, his father stumble upon Fox News, the world tremble with Brexit and a former reality TV star and steak salesman rise to the highest office in the land. What I found most interesting, though, were the entries beginning in March 2020 — the start of the pandemic.
Here I was reminded of just how confusing and unbelievably different the beginning of the pandemic was, but also just how quickly the world seemed to adapt. In the space of a few pages, Sedaris went from writing about how we all seemed to think hoarding a lifetime’s amount of toilet paper was a good idea to returning to traveling and coming within six feet of friends and family. Just like that, with a couple of page turns and a few blinks of the eye, it was over, and pandemic life had been normalized. In a way, that’s how the last two and half years since the pandemic began have felt: In the blink of an eye, I’ve become so far removed from the world I knew and the person that was.
Despite the fact that you’re reading someone else’s diary, at times, it feels like you’re looking in the mirror. What Sedaris writes about is so familiar and relatable. After all, he’s just like anyone else making their way through the world, albeit a best-selling author too. His work makes you zoom out on life, take a breather and take some time to reflect. Sedaris’s work transports me out of what can feel like a settled routine and state of being. It’s made me question the little things as I go about my day in all the ways I perceive and interact with the world.
While Sedaris most definitely has a talent for turning 500 pages of diary entries into a funny, worthwhile read, it’s still 500 pages of diary entries. This book isn’t something you get cozy with and lose yourself between the pages. It should be something you read carefully, thoughtfully and deliberately. Pick it up now and again, read a few pages and put it back down. Reread your favorite entries and skip over the ones you find boring. But when you’re done, take the time to reflect on the mundanities of your own life — what would Sedaris write about those?
Daily Arts Writer Noah Lusk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.