- story by Carole McKellar
My husband, John, and I had the pleasure of seeing David Sedaris perform live at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans this October. I’m a longtime fan and avid reader of his books.
Sedaris came onstage wearing a pair of culottes that he pointed out were not a skirt. In a recent New Yorker magazine he described shopping with his sisters in Tokyo, where he bought a pair of dress culottes that made a “pleasant whooshing sound” and showed off his calves. I reread the article while writing this and laughed out loud several times. His live show was a dose of much-needed levity at the end of what seemed an interminable election season.
David Raymond Sedaris was born in New York and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. His father was an IBM engineer, and his mother was a homemaker. He is the second of six children. Humorous stories about his family and his Greek heritage feature in his books and articles. Amy Sedaris, a younger sister, is a well-known actress and comedian.
David’s first book, “Barrel Fever,” was published in 1994, and since then he has written a total of eight books of stories and essays. They usually have farfetched names such as “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” and “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.” In addition to books, Sedaris is featured in numerous periodicals. The New Yorker has published more than forty of his essays.
“Me Talk Pretty One Day” gets its title from his attempts to learn the French language while living in Paris with his partner Hugh. Initially, David typed French words that he committed to memory on index cards such as "exorcism," "death penalty," and "witch doctor."
Later, he enrolled in a French immersion class. He reported that conversations in French with classmates sounded much like, “That be common for I, also, but be more strong, you. Much work and someday you talk pretty. People start love you soon. Maybe tomorrow, okay.”
After years in France, David and Hugh moved to West Sussex, England, where they still live. As with David’s family, Hugh is featured in many essays where he is usually portrayed as the reasonable partner on David’s zany misadventures.
Sedaris recently wrote a story about his obsession with his Fitbit. He roamed the English countryside picking up garbage and chalking up steps. He wrote, “I look back on the days I averaged only 30,000 steps, and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get?”
Sedaris has an irreverent sense of humor and some stories may offend the faint of heart. Referring to his family, he said, “We were not hugging people. In terms of emotional comfort it was our belief that no amount of physical contact could match the healing powers of a well made cocktail.”
I recommend reading any or all of Sedaris’ books, and the internet provides a wealth of articles and interviews for your entertainment. His articles in the New Yorker are available online, and they are all hilarious. His take on modern culture is satire at its best. If you are a fan of audiobooks, David Sedaris reads his own stories and essays in his distinctive voice, which adds comic effect.
A new book titled “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2016)” will be published in June 2017. Sedaris read some of the diary entries featured in the book during his live performance in New Orleans. He reported that he turned in more than 700 pages to his publisher. We, his loyal readers, have much to look forward to.