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Most of his readers know that author David Sedaris has an obsession with owls (which he describes in "Understanding Owls," a story involving a pervy taxidermist), but what about the diabetes part? He says that he had initially proposed this title for his last book, but his publisher balked. They didn't think it made sense, and worried that it might be shelved under health. This time around, he got his way. "A person would either leap at a book called Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls," he said last week over the phone, "or be repelled by it. I would leap for it. I'd think, 'What on earth do owls have to tell us about diabetes?' I laugh whenever I hear it."
Sedaris' speaking voice, in case you've never heard it, is like no other human's—it's got this distinct cadence, dotted by awkward pauses and apparent non sequiturs, and because of its odd pitch and slightly singsongy quirkiness, it's hard to place the speaker as younger or older, male or female. He says he has given up correcting hotel clerks who routinely address him on the phone as Mrs. Sedaris.
In his best-selling, beloved books—Owls is his eighth—he's rocketed off innumerable zingers about everyone from his now-deceased mother, his 90-year-old father, his siblings (especially his long-suffering sisters) and his partner, Hugh, to oversharing strangers and pretty much the whole of China. Still, in conversation, as in his writing, he is thoughtful and sweet in addition to being slyly hilarious
Next: Read the exclusive interview