Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fables for Our Times

I recently finished a book by author David Sedaris: ( called “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk”, subtitled “A Modest Bestiary”. This is an extremely original book by an established author. I have followed Mr. Sedaris in several articles he has written for The New Yorker and always find him humorous and thought-provoking. This book is no exception.

Reviews I read suggested that we have had no real writer of Fables since Aesop, and I wouldn’t disagree with that, although I can only vaguely remember the moral of the “Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Lion and the Mouse”. I do remember that in order to be a fable, a story must be brief, have a moral, and have some anthropomorphized animal or inanimate object as a major character.

My favorite of the “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” collection is “The Faithful Setter”, which I find particularly apropos with all the hoopla surrounding the Royal Wedding. In the story, the Setter, a pure bred, with papers and in demand for breeding, tells about his wife, who has a foul mouth, poor upbringing and is part Spaniel, for God’s sake. And of course she sleeps around. One litter of four looks amazingly like the English Bull Terrier across the street.

“But,” says The Setter, “Everyone is entitled to one mistake.”

The moral of the story appears to me to be how blind we are to our own weaknesses, whichever of the Seven Deadly Sins they are. In the Setter’s case it would be Pride. He regularly sets himself above his mate and is blind to the fact that he seems to be granted largess to act out exactly the criticisms, separations of class, and intolerance, for which he faults his wife.

When her boyfriend attacks a child and is put down for it, he cannot understand why she blames the family (and him) for her loss. When she is taken in for a hysterectomy, he cannot understand why she doesn’t feel cheered when he says, “I understand, and it’s all right.”

Of course we, as readers, understand as Sedaris reveals all these thoughts as post-coital conversations on the Setter's recent breeding adventure.

It gave me pause to think about my own marriage and some of my own weaknesses. Hopefully the moral will make me a more respecting husband.

A good read. One you would most likely enjoy as much as I did.

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