Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Recommend: Me Talk Pretty One Day

One of our favorite authors, David Sedaris, never fails to amuse us with stories from his life. Having grown up in a large eccentric family (his sister Amy starred in Strangers with Candy), he has plenty of material. We especially love Me Talk Pretty One Day for its spot on portrayal of how difficult mastering a foreign language can be, especially when every noun has a gender. Here are some of our favorite lines:

'Surely he had me confused with someone else. Although I had regularly petitioned for a brand-name vacuum cleaner, I'd never said anything about wanting a guitar. Nothing about it appealed to me, not even on an aesthetic level. I had my room arranged just so, and the instrument did not fit in with my nautical theme. An anchor, yes. A guitar, no.'

'Valencia's business was a small publishing company she ran from her garishly painted fourth-floor study... Once or twice a week an order would come in, and it was my job to fill it. There were occasional errand to run or letters to Xerox, but for the most part all I did was sit at my desk and mentally redecorate the house.'

'I didn't see this as a romantic idea. It had nothing to do with France itself, with wearing hats or writing tortured letters from a sidewalk cafe. I didn't care where Hemingway drank or Alice B. Toklas had her mustache trimmed. What I found appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I like having goals.'

'Of all the stumbling blocks inherent in learning a language, the greatest for me is the principal that each noun has a corresponding sex that affects both its articles and its adjectives... I spent months searching for some secret code before I realized that common sense has nothing to do with it. Hysteria, psychosis, torture, depression: I was told that if something is unpleasant, it's probably feminine. This encouraged me, but the theory was blown by such masculine nouns as murder, toothache and Rollerblade.'

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