In this week's New Yorker funnyman David Sedaris does what he does best: unspool with perfect, rambling detail an anecdote that is hilariously—even outlandishly—normal. This time around, the author writes about his out-of-hand collection of owl-related crap and the taxidermist adventure that started it all. It's certainly no tale waxing poetic about the beauty to be found in taxidermy; rather, Sedaris' latest is an account peppered with oddities and secret fascinations and, well, lots of dead animals. Here now, the 10 best lines:
1. "What we've done," he boasted, "is stretch a chicken over an owl form." "That's really . . . something," I said, groping for a compliment. The truth was that even a child would have seen this for what it was. The beak made from what looked to be a bear claw, the feet with their worn-down, pedestrian talons: I mean, please! This was what a chicken might wear to a Halloween party if she had ten minutes to throw a costume together.
2. Inside was a man's forearm, complete with little hairs and a smudged tattoo. The taxidermist said, completely unnecessarily, "Now, there's a story behind this." For what human limb in a Waitrose bag is not without some sort of story?
3. Like everything else, holiday gifts escalate. The presents get better and better until one year you decide you don't need anything else, and start making donations to animal shelters ... "Eventually, we'll celebrate by spaying a few dozen kittens," I said, "but until that day comes, I want that throat."
Photo by Shi Yali/Shutterstock
4. Does there come a day in every man's life when he looks around and says to himself, "I've got to weed out some of these owls."
5. Therefore you keep the crocheted owl given to you by your second-youngest sister and accidentally on purpose drop the mug that reads "Owl Love You Always" and was sent by someone who clearly never knew you to begin with. I mean, mugs with words on them!
6. If seen in a photo, you'd think that these animals were alive, and had gathered peacefully to boast about their excellent health.
7. To have your chopped-off head preserved and then wind up in a Tesco bag some six thousand miles away—that was the indignity. Tesco! At least the arm was in a Waitrose bag.
8. He asked if I was a doctor. "Me?" For some reason I looked at my hands. "Oh, goodness no." "Then your interest in those skulls is nonprofessional?"
9. I've been mistaken for a parent, a pickpocket, and even, God forbid, an S.U.V. owner, and I've always been able to brush it off. What's rare is not to be misread. The taxidermist knew me for less time than it took to wipe my feet on his mat, and, with no effort whatsoever, he looked into my soul and recognized me for the person I really am: the type who'd actually love a Pygmy, and could easily get over the fact that he'd been murdered for sport, thinking, breezily, Well, it was a long time ago.
10. "It's a Valentine's Day present—perfect for our new place. A house, actually—no basement, and three stories tall." I wasn't trying to be boastful. I just wanted him to know that I was loved, and that I lived aboveground.
· Understanding Owls [The New Yorker]
· Behold: 30 Hauntingly Beautiful Pieces of Taxidermy Decor [Curbed National]