I could listen to David Sedaris read from his diary for hours. He’s been keeping a log of his life since 1977. Early diary entries are painful, Sedaris describes, because he would write about his feelings. “I never write about my feelings anymore; I don’t think I have them.”
Sedaris has amassed enough entries to publish in his next book. These aren’t your typical drudge of daily reporting. Sedaris’s brain works in clever quips, and he can turn any situation into a quick-witted retelling.
“I always wonder what people do when they don’t write,” Sedaris said. “What do they do with all that?”
For Sedaris, it seems, everything is a story; it’s in the telling.
Sedaris, who has sold 10 million books worldwide in 29 countries, is a rock star of literature. With only his words and wit, he hits 44 cities every spring and fall, and appeared in Billings at the Alberta Bair Theater on Nov. 2. Considered one of the great American humorists of our time, Sedaris is incredibly approachable, staying after each reading to sign books till the line is gone.
What is most striking about Sedaris’s writing is how pleasing it sounds to the ear. His works read as though they were meant to be read out loud.
“I used to write for me to read out loud, but now I write for anyone to read aloud,” Sedaris said. “I hope that the breaks are in there, that all the signposts tell you where to pause and when to speed up. I hope that is written onto the page.”
This was my first time sitting with Sedaris, listening to him read from his body of work and share stories of his experiences—most centered on family. “Every time I walk away from my family I have a story,” Sedaris said.
I felt so normal listening to Sedaris. Since first stumbling into Naked, I’ve amassed his entire collection, reading and rereading each book for laughter, for style, to relate, to find comfort, and to just cuddle up with such well-written works.
And, as a practicing writer, I felt quite hopeful. “When you’re young, you start off copying other people. It’s normal—you do the same thing as an artist. You paint like so-and-so, and eventually you forgive yourself.”
During each tour, Sedaris gives a shout-out to a writer. Plugging Akhil Sharma’s Family Life, he continued, “I will never be able to write like Akhil Sharma. Boy I admire him, but I’m myself and at some point you accept yourself. You try to do the best you can.”
Ahh, such poignancy. Add a little wit, and his advice was complete: “I’ll do what I do and he’ll do what he does, and at the end of the day we’ll see who’s rich.”