David Sedaris’ family has always been an anchor in his essays. Over several books, readers have gotten insight into the sibling alliances and interactions that come with a large family.
In “Calypso,” his 10th book, the specter of mortality looms over his work, as his family shrinks in number. Sedaris notes how he’s a couple years shy of 62, the same age his mother died 27 years ago. The author also writes about the questions raised by the suicide of his youngest sister Tiffany in 2013. And, this being a Sedaris collection, there’s the story of how he once fed his benign tumor to a sea turtle. The reptile, too, had a tumor, but on its head and it was the “size of my niece’s fist,” Sedaris observed.
The PBS NewsHour asked the author to rattle off a quick list of four things — books, music, TV shows — to consume, including a a Danish political drama that will keep you “on the end of your seat.”
1. “Homesick for Another World” by Ottessa Moshfegh (2017)
“I cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard at a book,” Sedaris said of Moshfegh’s story story collection, published last year. To be clear, the recommendation here is a humorist saying a funny book is extremely funny.
Moshfegh told the Los Angeles Review of Books last year that she’s “interested in the way a character imagines his or her own reality, navigates it, gets it wrong, has a new idea, and rebuilds.”
“My life has a plot, certainly, but I live an internal life inside my head, and I think that’s probably true for most people,” she said during the interview. “A lot of life doesn’t go anywhere, and what’s interesting is what happens on the inside in that time.”
2. “The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes” by Rick Bass (2018)
Billed as a “pilgrimage of gratitude and generosity,” Bass’ new memoir is a gastronomical ode to some of his favorite writers, Sedaris among them. Bass traveled around the world and made meals for them.
Bass “writes about nature like nobody else,” Sedaris said.
3. “The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series” by Miles Davis and John Coltrane (2018)
As The New Yorker recounts, the tension was thick in the air — and music — in this “Bootleg Series” of 1960s live recordings from the jazz greats.
“I just listen to it over and over and over again. It just reminds you how scandalous they were. you know, that music when it was introduced, it just blew the tops of people’s heads off,” Sedaris said.
4. “Borgen” (2010)
With oodles of TV shows to choose from, Sedaris suggested that you check out a gripping Danish political drama, called “Borgen,” whose three-season run ended in 2013. (Critics, too, have sung the show’s praises.)
“It’s a fictional show about the first female prime minister of Denmark,” Sedaris said. “She has to build a coalition to pass a budget, and you’re just on the end of your seat.”