Jun 2, 2020

Stan Talks Pretty, Larry Edits, and We Listen In, all Virtually of Course

[Editor's Acknowledgment:  Larry took it upon himself to prime the blog with this guest post.  I am deeply grateful.  Enjoy and be gentle in your comments.]

Tuesday May 19th saw, or more accurately Zoomed, the second MBC virtual meeting.  It still feels a bit strange that neighbors literally next door to each other have to see each other on a computer screen in a recreation of the old Hollywood Squares game show.  And you know how exciting our lives are when the highlight of the evening was Terry’s new toilet!

In truth, these virtual meetings provide all of us a means to see friends and catch up on our lives.  And it was good to hear about lives moving along outside of our own cloistered homes.   For the most part those updates are mundane – children (really young adults now) moving in and out of our lives, the bottling of the 2019 vintage at the Tom/Dean/Dan home winery, Terry moving back into his newly refurbished home, Paul preparing for his first Airbnb guests, Glen starting a new program at Madrone (San Rafael) High, Stan’s embarking on his itinerant life on the road with an MB Sprinter licensed in Hood River OR, and Andrew (along with COVID-19) bringing back the drive-in movie.   There were also a few sad updates – finding out that a couple of friends are battling cancer and how it is not advisable to have a shipping container drop on your foot (with live video of the recovering shoe and foot).

Oh, yes, there was a book/audio book to be reviewed.  In the only instance in memory in which the host, Stan, did not only fail to finish reading his recommended book but also attempted to distance himself altogether from said book.  Stan explained how, had “we” voted for The Story of a Goat, its rating would have been Trump “incredible” as opposed to the “6” rating received by the chosen book – Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.  We quickly reminded Stan, that it was HIS vote that broke the tie between the two books, leaving us to rate MTPOD not The Story of a Goat.

Other than Andrew’s effusive “I laughed so hard, I almost totaled the Land Rover”, the rest of MBC thought the book was like reading/listening to a self-effacing stand-up comedian – great in small doses but harder to appreciate during a longer reading/listen.  Not a Pulitzer contender, but certainly an enjoyable diversion during the sequestration.  The book brought to the fore how a “book” can be perceived differently in its audio versus paper formats.  The members that both read and listened to MTPOD agreed that Sedaris has a particular audio cadence that is hard to recreate on the written page – like trying to read a Seinfeld script and having to imagine how Jerry, Elaine, George & Kramer would deliver their lines.  Each member, like watchers of Seinfeld, had their favorite story from the Sedaris book – the speech teacher, David’s father, the visit from neighbors back home, learning French, and living in France.

We had additional discussion about how this compared to Sedaris’ other books.  The general agreement here was that MTPOD was not one of his stronger books and felt somewhat dated.  Certainly, none of the stories in this book matched the author’s reading of his Santaland Diaries story – now an annual NPR holiday staple.   So, while scoring only a mediocre “6” on the MBC rating scale, MBC agreed that Me Talk Pretty One Day, in whichever format, was a wonderful diversion during these Shelter-In-Place times.

--Larry

6 comments:

  1. Thanks to Stan for "hosting", to Andrew for overseeing the chaos, and to Larry for writing a blog post. I was in the camp of "read, not listened to, and didn't like it that much". The stories were reasonably amusing. However, I was really looking forward to a rip-snorting look at learning a foreign language, which I have done, and I think I have to conclude that it's better as an oral history than a written book. I'd not read Sedaris before so perhaps will look to listen to one of his other books.

    Separately, I'm distraught that I joined the Zoom call late and missed the toilet demonstration. A clear incentive to join on time, every time.

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  2. Stan, you still owe me a meal. Larry, thanks for pinch-hitting to write this blog. MTPOD was an ok book for me, not quite as well-received, at least by me, as Larry's summary seems to suggest. I listened to the audio which I downloaded in 2009 and couldn't get past the first piece then. But this time, I powered through. His voice is annoying; stories are repetitive; and material seems dated now. Despite all that, I can see the attraction to the book and the clever self-deprecating ironies of his messaging, and some parts of the book I enjoyed, but overall uneven. His stories as a youth seemed warmed-over from other authors/humorists, and called to mind, for me, a knock-off of Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, which I really liked. His relentless monologues in/on France got tiresome. I kept looking at my iPhone wondering how many more minutes were left on this thing. Never a good sign...But at least it was an excuse to get together (sort of) with the guys.

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  3. Evidently, I was the outlier, as I found Sedaris' stories hilarious. But my reaction came with a strong caveat: I listened to his stories over the course of several long drives when I had nothing better to do. So, while the stories did feel a little dated (like when he lugged his typewriter through airport security!) and thematically repetitive, he has (as Larry noted) a peculiar cadence in his narration that I found charming. Even though Paul disagrees, his French language classes (and especially the English rendering of what comes out of his mouth) is not only the basis for the title of his story collection, but is also as funny as anything I've ever heard.

    As for our "host," I give Stan a C-. He disparaged Sedaris' writing, denied responsibility for our selection, and called us out for reminding him that he broke the tie in favor of MTPOD. His bravado is takes my breath away!

    Paul, our conversation about Terry's new toilet wasn't really the stuff of scatology. It started with toilet paper and drifted to The Bidet Solution. Given his extensive remodel, Terry ensured that he and his wife will never need TP so long as they stay in their home.

    As a final note, I was wrong in surmising that those who listened to Sedaris would submit higher ratings than those who read the stories. The difference was 6.1 vs. 5.7--which means Sedaris disappointed almost everyone. On Stan's behalf, I apologize.

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  4. Atta boy Larry!!!!! Nice to see someone stepped up to the plate.
    I read Sedaris's book "Holidays on Ice" and and high expectations and there were a few good stories but all in all this book was a disappointment. I opted for the audio version and found my mind drifting off to far away places.
    Anyway, I highly recommend READING "Holiday's on Ice".
    Cheers
    Dan
    PS Stan?!?! You were the host and tie breaker but failed to read the book????

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  5. NV/AZ MannJune 22, 2020

    Thank you Larry. Someone had to step up for Andrew. Me Talk Pretty One Day was a slow and generally tiring read. While Andrew noted the slight difference in ratings for read versus listened, my guess is that I would have enjoyed the content more had I listened. I am also interested in hearing the Santaland Diaries which I had hitherto never heard of. Some of the stories were good, and I am sure David and his sister Amy would be great dinner companions. That said, I will not be recommending MTPOD to anyone.

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