And now for something completely different: David Sedaris, humorist and personal essayist extraordinaire, takes on selfishness, bigotry, righteousness, loneliness and other all-too-human foibles in 16 animal fables, a La Fontaine and Aesop. They are as hilarious and slyly trenchant as his beloved stories about his sisters, Santaland and smoking. Despite chatty barnyard animals and charming illustrations by Ian Falconer, creator of the Olivia children's book series, don't be fooled into thinking this is a children's book. Should Definitely This happens to be not just the most outrageous, but also the most wonderful story in Sedaris' book. A great horned owl who has lost his life mate finds comfort in filling the hole she has left by gathering information, some of which he gleans from would-be prey in exchange for clemency. When a rat tells him about a leech that "can only live in the anus of a hippopotamus," the owl marvels, "Talk about a closed society!" He investigates, befriending a hippo at the local zoo, and what he learns about these happy parasites positively thrills him: "To live in a damp crowded asshole and sing - if these guys don't know the secret to living, I don't know who does." Most of Sedaris' critters are struggling to make sense of a tough, unfair world. You've got to love a writer whose empathy extends even to a sensitive potbellied pig, causing him to wonder who came up with names like "largemouth bass, humpback whale, lesser wart-nosed horseshoe bat - not caring whose life was ruined."