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With 'Happy-Go-Lucky,' David Sedaris offers more humor for hard times

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Anne Fishbein
/
npr.org
David Sedaris is the author of "Happy-Go-Lucky"

There are few things that make me rejoice more than a new book by David Sedaris. His essays and diary collections are second only to his live performances in their ability to make me double over with laughter. Countless times I’ve been driving along, listening to Sedaris on audio — which is the best way to take in his work, in my opinion — and I’ve had to pull over to catch my breath or wipe my eyes. If humor was a superpower, Sedaris would be the star Avenger.

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His newest collection, the ironically titled “Happy-Go-Lucky,” is just as funny and irreverent as his previous works. But the tone here is more somber, even melancholy, as he explores topics like gun violence, aging, and the sudden but not wholly unexpected death of his 98-year-old father. Sedaris started down this path with his 2018 collection, “Calypso.” And four years later, amid an unrelenting pandemic, racial unrest and ever-more-divisive politics, there’s even more to be gloomy about.

As usual, Sedaris highlights the random weirdness and hilarity of modern life. In one essay, he visits a gun range and marvels that they sell boxer briefs with a holster in the back. In another, he plays along with staffers at his dad’s nursing home who think he’s comedian Dave Chappelle. He urges young people to move away from their hometown and to write lots of thank-you notes. But the sun around which this entire collection orbits is Sedaris’s dad, Lou, who the author has spent a lifetime trying to figure out.

Loyal readers who plowed through the two diary collections, “Theft By Finding” and “A Carnival of Snackery,” will recognize some of the material here. But it’s still fresh, still funny, and still a salve for hard times.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.