“Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” by David Sedaris, Little, Brown and Co., 275 pages, $27.

It would be hard to think up a goofier title, and I can’t find justification for it other than goofball value.

The book “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” is a collection of essays and stories by a fellow with a reputation for being funny, and I’m sure that’s what David Sedaris is trying to do with this book. But I kept waiting for the guffaws to develop, and it wasn’t until I was well into this little volume that I was even vaguely amused.

I guess he and I just have different ideas about what’s funny, and many people surely find Sedaris howlingly amusing.

One of my residents, seeing the book near my work station, gave me a 5-minute lecture on what a card the author was. I will try to distill some of the better parts of this mostly disappointing book.

The author’s story about how his father praised every kid on the block except his own son is poignant and touching. His tale of foreign travel and being unable to speak the local language was familiar and uncomfortable. And who can forget, near the end of a flight, the flight attendant coming by with a plastic bag, saying “Your trash,” and Sedaris hearing, “You’re trash. Your family’s trash.”

Preparing to travel from Narita, Japan, to Beijing, everyone seemed to be choking and coughing.

“I saw wads of phlegm like freshly shucked oysters on staircases and escalators. I saw them frozen into slicks on the sidewalk and oozing down the sides of walls. It often seemed that if people weren’t spitting they were … shooting wads of snot out of their noses.”

There is humor in the exposition, if you can get past the nausea.

I really did laugh out loud at his description, doubtless exaggerated, of his thoughts as he waited in line to buy a ticket behind people who were determined to take up the rest of the day with their requests and conversation. He recorded his thoughts and anger in capital letters as he waited, seemingly interminably, for his turn.

His solution to the problem of litter is unique.

“What the government needs to do is take a sample of everyone’s DNA. Then, when a bottle or can is discarded on the ground, we just run a test on the spout and throw the person in jail.”

Sedaris for public office!

He ends this sometimes amusing book with a really funny poem, rhyming carefully lines one and two and then three and four, telling in lurid detail about the disgusting habits of a dog and the places he will lick. I laughed out loud at that.

Sedaris is good for a couple of laughs and some interesting insights. But not for 27 bucks.

Book review

Melvyn Schreiber is a physician at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

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