Essay review: ‘Memory Laps’ by David Sedaris

Story Title: ‘Memory Laps’ by David Sedaris.
Source: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (Abacus)
Date Read: 06 January 2014
Afterthoughts: At age 50 Sedaris decided not to pursue an interest in opera – something which he says that an older person can really sink their teeth into – but rather to revisit his swimming roots at the Raleigh Country Club, where swimming for him was anything but recreational. Forced to join the swim team in order to give his mother bragging rights, Sedaris played along and bore the hardship. Things were almost bearable, until his father took a shine to another swim team member, Greg Sakas, which caused Sedaris to ‘stir the turd’ as his mother would put it, and he cause trouble for his sisters.

Could things get worse? Apparently they did when Sedaris’ father also ‘discovered’ Donny Osmond and started praising him to the high heavens, while at the same time knocking any speck of confidence out of his son. Eventually Sedaris would beat his nemesis (and I don’t mean Donny Osmond), but alas his father didn’t quite share in his son’s victory. “My Dad was like the Marine Corps,” Sedaris says, “only instead of tearing you to pieces and then putting you back together, he just did the first part and called it a day.”

I sense as with a lot of Sedaris’ essays that there’s a large dose of over exaggeration at play (I certainly hope so anyway), but it’s all in the name of humour – and this one is certainly funny – so perfectly acceptable to me. Entertaining and engaging. What more could one want from a humourist’s essay?

Taster Quote: Before my first practise, I put swimming in the same category as walking and riding a bike: things one did to get from place to place. I never thought of how well I was doing them. It was only in competing that an activity became fraught and self-conscious. More accurately, it was only in competing with boys. I was fine with girls, especially if they were younger than me. Younger than me and physically challenged was even better. Give me a female opponent with a first-grade education and a leg brace, and I would churn that water like a speedboat. When it came to winning, I never split hairs.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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).