Sunday, October 19, 2008

an evening with David Sedaris

Yesterday, as I worked on my blog I did a quick google for David Sedaris. Buried about half-way down the list of results was #25 David Sedaris « Stuff White People Like. The link takes you to a blog about what presumably all or only white people like.

The bloggers pose the question why would people spend money to go hear an author read from a book that they already own or have read? My response would be another question. Why do we go to concerts to hear music that we've already bought or heard on the radio?

Anyway, I what interested me most was a comment at the end of this blog post.

I waited in line at a bookstore for an hour and a half, give or take, so that my
girlfriend could meet David Sedaris... (in the book) he signed for her he
said, “I’m glad you have legs so that you can walk.” That’s it…is that

I don't think this person get it. Sedaris is very observant of tiny details about people. He tends to hone in on they way they look, something they say, what they do for a living etc. The things in finds particularly interesting may be abstracted and morphed into something else in his imagination, and there begins a story. I suspect that is why he talks to each and every person at a book signing. He's always looking for new material. Judging by last nights attendance the man probably meets hundreds of people a day. Coming up with a witty comment for each person would be impossible, especially if it's someone you just met. Think of how hard it is to write a unique comment in an office birthday card, and that's for someone you probably see on a daily basis. To fill in the gaps I'm assuming that he uses quotes or tag lines from one of his many short stories. Out of context, the phrase may seem a bit random, but a die-hard fan would probably get the joke and others (like me) might appreciate a silly bit or randomness. Let me give you a similar situation my friends and I experienced a couple of years ago. This is the same night I discovered that I didn't look like a slut.

A dear friend of mine had been recently diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia which is often times terminal because it usually afflicts elderly men. She was in fact a 35 year-old woman, and is currently in remission. Anyway, at the time of the signing she was just beginning treatment. The line for book signing was long and she started to feel very tired. My other friend, Teresa, and I suggested she sit down and rest, while we have the book signed for her.

When it was our turn, Teresa told David to please make it out to "Paula" and that was it. As he was signing, Teresa blurts out. "You didn't just write that?" She hands me the book and I see the words " Paula... You are going to die."

Earlier in the evening David had read a short story, Memento Mori when gifts come back to haunt you, that at the time had recently been published in the New Yorker. Without paraphrasing too much, the story had the reoccurring phrase "You are going to die." So upon seeing the inscription we knew what he was referencing. It was plan old irony that he wrote that in a book destined to a woman with possible terminal illness

I don't think either Teresa or I breathed for a minute or so, trying to figure out should we give the book to Paula or stealthily run over to the book kiosk and get another copy. Eventually, we delivered the original book to Paula, who was eagerly waiting. We warned her that the inscription may be unsettling. She took one look and laughed out loud. She got the story reference and she go the irony.

So I can see where the blog commenter was coming from to a certain extent. I think its a case of not everyone gets it.

Momento Mori was published this year in When You Are Engulfed in Flames. On the dust jacket there is a quote from a reviewer at the Village Voice "Sedaris's sometimes affectionate, usually dark insights might be troubling if they weren't so damn funny." I think that sums it up best.

So you may be asking yourself what he wrote in my book this time. "I like your stick." Seemingly random yes, but I was wearing my "little dude on a stick" necklace. It works.


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