Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Wicked Bestiary is an eccentric collection of animal-themed short stories by the gay American writer David Sedaris.
If you are familiar with any of Sedaris’s work, you might expect this to be another collection of stories about family dysfunction and the absurdity of the minutia of everyday life captured in Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You are Engulfed in Flames. He’s taken a big departure from his usual terrain in Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk as all the tales in this collection are fables about the lives of animals. The tone of the book is classic Sedaris as his offbeat sense of humour continues to poke fun at the way we live and the lies we tell ourselves. While the characters themselves are not human, you might just find the situations they find themselves to be reminiscent of your own lives.
For instance, in the opening story called “The Squirrel and the Chipmunk”, a chipmunk thinks about the time when she broke up her squirrel boyfriend due to family bigotry about his species.
In another story called “The Toad, the Turtle and the Duck”, three animals wait in a queue and get more and more indignant about how long it takes for the local animal bureaucracy to serve them.
But my favourite story in this collection would have to be “The Cat and the Baboon”, where a baboon hairdresser tries but eventually fails to make a good impression on her feline client by telling her nasty jokes about dogs. While you can read this story as absurd entertainment, it also has parallels for the way that people judge others by using hurtful homophobic or racist stereotypes.
There are fifteen stories in the collection and all of them are accompanied by the intriguingly minimalist drawings of the animals by the long time illustrator Ian Falconer, who found fame with his book collection Olivia, which details the life of a hyper-active piglet.
Sedaris has put together a charming little book that is particularly funny as it doesn’t offer a moral to the story like traditional fables do. If you have a nihilistic sense of humour and enjoy stories that highlight humanity’s many failings, I would definitely recommend you add Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk to your collection.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris
Published in September 2010 in Australia by Little, Brown
The author introduces the book on the video below.