Family relationships

How does David Sedaris get away with saying the unsayable?

These aren’t diaries in the sense that Chips Channon kept diaries, or Samuel Pepys. They aren’t diaries at all, beyond the fact that each entry records an event and has a date and place attached. If a diary is a conversation with yourself, A Carnival of Snackery is a conversation with a crowd, because the observations it contains were written as material for David Sedaris’s shows. The entries, which begin in 2003 and continue to Christmas 2020, are therefore, as Sedaris admits, over-polished, and what we hear on the page is a spoken rather than a written voice. There are many other voices besides, because the book is a record

My mother — as I remember her best

Nine cups of milky Nescafé Gold Blend a day; a low-tar cigarette smouldering; a hot-water-bottle always on her lap; the Times crossword almost completed at the Formica table; knitting on the go; and novels — she always read the last page first. She was one of that generation of women who didn’t go to university but were incredibly well-read and knew poems by heart. This was Kathleen, the mother of Nicholas Royle, novelist and professor of English at Sussex University. In a remarkable and moving memoir he has captured and preserved a loving, kind, impatient woman — and perhaps, with her, all of our mothers in the sweet predictability of