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An Evening With David Sadaris at The Pikes Peak Center by Debbie

Posted by Jenny Maloney on May 14, 2011 at 4:55 PM

David Sedaris is a best-selling author and radio contributor, a keen observer of human interactions, and a very funny man. At the Pikes Peak Center recently, a very appreciative audience was treated to a live reading from several of his works, followed by a Q&A session and a book signing.

 

Reading or listening to his work, I am constantly amazed that the people who inhabit his world are so different from anyone I know and yet so very familiar. That is the beauty of a David Sedaris story/essay. You’ve seen these people. Maybe even know a few of them. But you’ve never looked at them in quite the same way that he has.

 

There’s Mrs. Munson, the woman who steps into the Starbucks line right in front of you when you’re in a hurry. She leans back and reads the menu board. “A latte’,” she says to her husband, “Is that one of those things Sheila gets?” You cringe, and maybe whisper the same expletive as Sedaris. Or you may sympathize with Mrs. Munson, the vacationer who is trying something a little different. Sedaris manages to do both.

 

As I wiped my eyes, wet from both laughter and pathos, I wondered how I would put together an article about the show. About Sedaris, the writer. “He’s just funny, and brilliant, and funny,” I thought. How does that help another writer?

 

Then I realized his show is a lesson in writing. Here are a few of the highlights.

 

Inspiration

 

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is Sedaris’ latest best-selling book. It is a collection of fables with titles like “The Mouse and the Snake,” “The Parenting Storks” and “The Vigilant Rabbit.” He introduced “The Cat and the Baboon” by telling how he came up with the idea of a book of fables.

 

He was reading a book of South African myths and fables about anthropomorphic animals. “I can do better than this,” he said, “These are terrible.” So he wrote 25 stories over two years. Only 16 made it into the book. Which, I guess, is also a lesson in editing.

 

Sedaris’ subjects are usually much more human. He often writes about strangers and the odd acquaintance, but more frequently the Sedaris family and David’s friends are front and center in his stories.

 

During the Q&A, an inebriated woman asked, “How’s the rooster?” but her words were so slurred that he mistook it for “How’s your brother?” Sedaris explained that he is uncomfortable talking about his family in public, because he doesn’t have their permission. He gives his family copies of his work before it’s sent to the publisher. If they want something cut, he does. It seems they don’t cut much, but it’s nice they have the chance.

Word Choice/Perspective

 

Sedaris talked about walking out of a store and seeing a frail, white-haired lady struggling to get into her car. It was parked in one of the handicapped spaces, and he felt sorry for her. Then he noticed the bumper sticker. “Marriage = 1 man + 1 woman”

 

He continued, “As the brittle old hag pulled away . . .”

Revision

 

Sadaris told the audience that after every reading he revises the stories, based on audience reaction. Even with the huge base of critics he has, it must be much like any critique group. Not everyone is going to react the same way. He still has to be the final say in what stays and what goes. But he tackles it. Sometimes every single night.

 

Maybe that’s why the stories are so good when they make it into books.

Listen To Your Audience

 

No one in my group remembered to bring a book for David to sign—By the end of the evening, we were on a first name basis—and a couple wanted to get home early. So we didn’t go through the line to meet the author.

 

But I’ve seen interviews with him about his signings. People tell him jokes. All kinds of jokes. And he listens politely, and laughs or groans.

 

Then he uses the best ones, and sometimes the worst ones, in his show.

 

If you haven’t read anything by David Sedaris, start by going here: David on YouTube 

 

You can also find links to stories he’s read on This American Life (TAL) at their website: This American Life

 

I first heard him on TAL so it’s his voice I hear whenever I read a Sedaris book. It makes the stories even funnier somehow. Listen and see.

 

Feel free to visit Debbie's Member Page or her blog: They're Making Me Blog.

Categories: Local Events, Writers

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2 Comments

Reply Oliver
12:53 PM on June 7, 2011 
Sweet. Yeah, Sedaris is good stuff.
Reply paris fracne
1:38 PM on May 19, 2013 
we all know that sabean cannot judge real talentend of story

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