Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 488
David Sedaris's Calypso is a collection of twenty-one short stories published in 2018. It is an especially humorous book, featuring plenty of bawdy material. By some standards considered grotesque, Sedaris's material includes "your mother" jokes, bathroom humor, and parodies of various mundane facets of life. Much of the material is autobiographical (for example, his sister Tiffany and his partner Hugh are mentioned in various essays). The collection bears the hallmarks of a parody, but it is one which is especially concerned with the author's relationship to his family.
Collectively, the novels are a satirical commentary on Western, upper-middle-class life. For example, in "Stepping Out," Sedaris explains how he became so obsessed with this Fitbit that he spent nine hours per day picking up garbage in the streets in his hometown of West Sussex. In "Your English Is So Good," Sedaris discusses the way we talk like dolls unless we are with friends and family, both when traveling and at home.
In addition to the social commentary deployed among these essays, Sedaris certainly flirts with the nauseating, and in so doing, does not spare the reader graphic and obscene language. A particularly egregious example is the story, "And While You're Up There, Check On My Prostate," in which he discusses the language and phrases that various countries use to insult one another while driving. Sedaris claims that Romanians are the most extravagant users of profanity.
In the title story, "Calypso," Sedaris describes going to a dermatologist in North Carolina who tells him that he has a fatty tumor called a "lipoma" (which Sedaris unflinchingly describes as having "the size and feel of an unshelled, hard-boiled egg"). He tells the surgeon that he plans to feed the tumor to a specific snapping turtle with a growth on its head. The surgeon tells him that it is illegal for him to give patients anything removed from their bodies. Finally, a woman he met at a book signing offers to remove it for him, which happens in a remote clinic in the middle of the night. This woman then ships the tumor to his sister in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where the author retrieves it the following Thanksgiving.
When he and his sister go to a nearby canal while the turkey is being prepared on Thanksgiving, they are told by a group of boys on the bridge that the turtle (which they knowingly call "Grand Daddy" is hibernating. This leaves the author disappointed that he cannot feed the turtle his tumor.
In "Calypso" (as in other stories featured the collection), the speaker portrays his family as a comfortable presence. The author even writes about his critical father with an affectionate familiarity. His sister, Lisa, is completely unfazed by the unusual nature the writer's mission when accompanying him to feed the tumor to the turtle. Family has a strong presence for the author in the majority of the essays in this excellent and entertaining collection.
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