Sleepwalk with Me, by Mike Birbiglia

sleepwalkI think it’s important to have books like Sleepwalk with Me on one’s bookshelf. At the end of a stressful day or perhaps after watching a frightening movie (*ahem*), light-hearted, humorous books can give you a bit of perspective and make you forget just how bad a crummy day really was. Personal favourites include anything by David Sedaris and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Tina Fey’s Bossypants was awesome for this purpose. I received Sleepwalk with Me as a Christmas present, after my lovely husband remembered me recounting a hilarious segment by Mike Birbiglia on an episode of This American Life. I was at the gym when I listened to it and I could not contain my chuckles. Unfortunately I have to report being a bit disappointed by this book. Don’t get me wrong: there were definitely some laugh-out-loud moments (much to my husband’s annoyance as these always seem to happen when I’m reading in bed and he’s trying to sleep) and the stories were by and large amusing. My beef is with the writing. Birbiglia writes how he speaks. This is a problem I tend to encounter with my first-year students and don’t expect from a book I’ve purchased. But then, Birbiglia is a stand-up comic, not a Nobel prize winner for literature. It’s possible that my expectations may have been boosted too high by the glowing endorsements on the back from some of the funniest people on the (English-speaking) planet: Eddie Izzard, Nathan Lane, Denis Leary, and Lewis Black, to name a few. When John Hodgman writes, for instance, “Sleepwalk with Me is so funny, inspired, and jealous-makingly well written…” you’ll excuse me for my perhaps unrealistic expectations. But maybe I’m being too hard on Birbiglia. The guy does have some truly funny stories, some of them about sleepwalking, and at no point did I want to put the book down. And it certainly did the trick: every time I read it my life felt just a little better.

An aside: I just googled this book for linkage purposes and discovered that it’s now a movie, starring Mike Birbiglia, released in Aug 2012. Apparently I am out of touch. But in case you’re wondering, yes, I will see the movie.


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