It’s a curious prospect, reviewing a book composed of journal entries. A journal is typically a writer’s innermost private thoughts, which should be beyond a critic’s purview. Many lives have mundane periods, so it seems unfair to deduct points for lack of action. And when the author of the journal is humor writer David Sedaris, the book critic wonders how many of these tales are actually real. All this is to say that A Carnival of Snackery is a difficult book to review. Sedaris shares nearly 600 pages of his diary entries from 2003 to 2020, and the emotions they provoke run the entire gamut.
Sedaris’ political musings span from post-9/11 to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a globe-trotting author, he brings an outsider’s perspective to many historical moments. But his personal entries are the more touching ones. Sedaris is best known for his humor essays, in which his eccentric Greek American family members often appear. But A Carnival of Snackery invites the reader to share his family’s heartbreak and losses, too. Sedaris’ thoughts about his estrangement from his sister Tiffany, her eventual suicide and his difficult relationship with his conservative and judgmental father (complicated by Donald Trump’s presidency) are woven among his lighter entries.
There are plenty of laughs to be had as well; one of the reasons readers love Sedaris is that he’s the first person to laugh at himself. This remains true in A Carnival of Snackery, especially as the bestselling author comes to grips with his late-in-life wealth. Sedaris tours constantly to promote his books, and several entries recount jokes that audience members have shared at book signings. A few of these jokes may be considered tasteless, but many will have you giggling in spite of yourself.
There is plenty in A Carnival of Snackery that longtime Sedaris fans will love.