Essay review: ‘Dentists Without Borders’ by David Sedaris

Story Title: ‘Dentists Without Borders’ by David Sedaris.
Source: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (Abacus)
Date Read: 02 January 2014
Afterthoughts: In this opener to his latest collection, David Sedaris invites the reader into the privacy of the consultation room, where he reveals a penchant for the Parisian dentistry profession, and the psychopaths (my word, not his, mainly because I have an abject terror of dentists) who lurk within.

It seems that Sedaris loves the fact that his dentists put him through the mill – pain and all – because at least he feels that they’re doing something positive for him, unlike his $50-a-session physician who dismisses every ailment or complaint with a shrug of the shoulders, and a reply that usually involves answering a question with a question, and one that’s often deeply philosophical (“Why is it that my fatty tumour will eventually stop growing?” Sedaris asks. “I don’t know,” Dr Medioni responds. “Why don’t trees touch the sky?”). Funny stuff!

Much talk about periodontists, orthodontists and prosthodontists later – including descriptions of Dr. Guig who Sedaris adores but who I see as one the archetypal psychopaths I mentioned above – and the action climaxes, or rather slows to a pace, when we meet Dr. Granat, who seems almost as pedestrian as Sedaris’ physician. It’s here where the real humour in the essay comes out, as Sedaris not only reveals the engaging conversations that patient and dentist have between them (mainly involving dentist asking patient if he is all right? “Ça va?”), with patient responding with a sound (“E-um”) that resembles the human equivalent of a doorbell), but also the unmissable (read: impossible to miss) travel programme that always plays on a muted TV attached to the wall, which features such delights as yak decorating and mice kebabs.

All-in-all a delightfully eclectic and humourous start to the collection, which caused loud guffaws and much glee to be emitted from this reader.

Notable Quote: For my fifty dollars, I want to leave the doctor’s office in tears, but instead I walk out feeling like a hypochondriac, which is one of the few things I’m actually not. If my French physician is a little disappointing, my French periodontist more than makes up for it. I have nothing but good things to say about Dr. Guig, who, gumwise, has really brought me back from the abyss.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Let's Explore Diabetes with OwlsThis story was read as part of an overall review of David Sedaris’ latest essay collection, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. If you want to find out more about this collection, then please stop by my forethoughts post for the book, or visit the publisher’s website.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn’t bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).