Fans of humorist David Sedaris were treated to an evening at The State Theatre on April 2 of readings by the sweetheart of public radio’s “This American Life” and author of such books as Naked, Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice. The large and receptive audience included everyone from older, well-heeled NPR liberals to starving, bleary-eyed students. Noticeably absent were protestors of the raunchy, openly homosexual writer with a penchant for rhyming and a love of scatological humor.
Sedaris read from a variety of works, including stories from his latest book, Me Talk Pretty One Day (the title refers to his struggle with the French language since moving to France). Sedaris said the move had given him new challenges, replacing old challenges he overcame once becoming a successful writer.
The crowd was also treated to “Dog Days,” a cycle of poems which appeared in Esquire magazine last August. The progressively more disgusting and hilarious four-line sonnets culminated with:
A naughty Saint Bernard named Don
Finds Polly’s Kotex in the john.
He holds the blood steak in his jaws
And mourns her coming menopause.
Not all of Sedaris’ writing is quite so grotesque. Much of his work deals with the serious business of alienation. But he succeeds even in making humor out of something as awful as the experience of being kicked out of his parents’ house because of his homosexuality.
New works by Sedaris were also featured, including some diary entries and a long poem in progress concerning a leprechaun’s adventures in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day. Immediately after reading the latter, the author expressed regret for having brought it out. But later in the evening he explained how reading new material in public is helpful to him because it shows whether or not a piece is working. He cited the leprechaun piece as an example of this process.
Sedaris ended the evening with a question and answer session. Although he is known to be bitterly deprecating of himself and others in his writing, he proved to be very gracious when faced with audience members posing unbelievably inane questions. One such person seemed unable to understand that everyone had come to the State Theatre to listen to David Sedaris and not her. The evening unfortunately ended when, after sparring patiently with this fan for some time, Sedaris decided he’d rather be out back with a cigarette than at the podium trying to reason with a loony in front of a few hundred people.
For those interested in hearing David Sedaris read, I suggest checking out www.thislife.org, the Web site of Sedaris’ radio program, which has many audio files in its archive. For printed material, the dog poems and much more can be found in the archives at www.esquire.com.