Sedaris talk pretty
David Sedaris, who was named TIME Magazine’s 2001 Humorist of the Year, returns to Houston today to further his satirical commentary on society, his life and how the two have intertwined to form his perceptions of the world.
“I’m just a big liar,” Sedaris once said to a group of students at a seminar. But after listening to and laughing along with him for a while, the reader stops caring how much he might embellish and instead gets submerged into Sedaris’ twisted, hilarious world.
His upcoming book, a collection of parables entitled Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, is planned for release in the fall. Sedaris is set to read excerpts from it tonight at Jones Hall in downtown Houston.
His last book, a collection of short stories titled When You Are Engulfed In Flames, was released in June 2008, and I was lucky enough to attend his reading in Houston, which was also at Jones Hall. I first discovered Sedaris when looking for a writer with a style similar to my favorite author, Augusten Burroughs, who wrote Running With Scissors.
Sedaris fit the bill, but rather than writing memoirs of a past that defines him, he takes everyday occurrences, places emphasis on the little things and shows you his life (which is not as different from anyone else’s as you might think) in a way that celebrates the ordinary.
During his 2008 appearance, Sedaris read an excerpt from an article he had written for The New Yorker that at the time had not yet been published. In the article titled “Undecided,” he compared being uncertain in the presidential election to being unsure whether to order chicken or a “platter of (excrement) with bits of broken glass in it … to be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.”
Originally, Sedaris wanted to compare one of the candidates — and no, he never said which one, but you can probably guess — to human excrement, which he said The New Yorker thought was tasteless. He laughed at the thought of human excrement being the last straw.
“It was all luck and it all started with that radio piece. If it wasn’t for that, I’d probably still be cleaning apartments as a maid in New York,” Sedaris writes.
Sedaris came from humble beginnings. As an elf at Macy’s, one of Santa’s helpers, he had to deal with frenzied children, stressed parents and the hassle of last-minute holiday shoppers. He kept a journal of his experiences, and eventually his work was published. The Santaland Diaries put Sedaris on the map, and since then, he has written nearly a dozen books and is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s “This American Life,” a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 1.7 million listeners, according to the station’s website.
Sedaris’ books also include Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on Ice, Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.
He has also served as editor of Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, an anthology of short stories that he enjoyed.