Down and Dirty with the Diaries of David Sedaris

. March 31, 2018.
lit-feature---David-Sedaris-(photo-from-NPR.org)

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard David Sedaris on NPR’s This American Life. It was the late 90s. I was illegally parked behind Denny Hall on the University of Washington campus. Sedaris was reading a story about doing drugs and failing out of college. It was gut-wrenching, sad, chock full of dark humor. And his voice. High-pitched and androgynous, full of a kind of heartache that made the story immediate and visceral.

Many authors reluctantly tour to support their writing, Sedaris, on the other hand, writes his stories for the purpose of reading them out loud. Touring is not an obligation, it’s the final step in the process, one he loves. Perhaps more than any other author, it’s impossible to separate David Sedaris’ own reading voice from his voice on the written page.

From struggling artist to Christmas elf

Those lucky enough to nab a ticket to An Evening with David Sedaris, will hear the author’s iconic voice reading, primarily from his newest book, Theft by Finding, Diaries 1977-2002.

Sedaris whittled 164 physical diary entries down to one, five-hundred page volume. Early entries introduce the reader to the starving artist-college dropout, working the lowest forms of menial labor and doing too many drugs in Raleigh, North Carolina. From there he attends art school in Chicago. He soon loses interest in sculpture and finds a passion for observational, comedic writing—and a passion for performing his writing. He moves to New York, finds work as a department store Christmas elf, writes plays and falls in love. Creating more and more opportunities to read his writing publicly, he’s discovered by NPR’s Ira Glass, which leads to a reading of the SantaLand Diary on Morning Edition and, from there, his career takes off.

Roots of the famous essays

Many of the diary entries are fodder for stories that would end up in future bestsellers such as Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on Ice, and Me Talk Pretty One Day. However, this collection is more than the sum of its parts. Read from beginning to end, Theft by Finding adds up to a brilliant memoir. We watch Sedaris toil, survive and thrive, all the while wryly observing and commentating on a world that seems to be doing everything it can to beat him down. And when these written observations, and that voice, lead to his triumph, we can’t help but cheer.

$52+ | 7:30pm | Wednesday, April 18
Nicola’s Bookstore presents An Evening with David Sedaris
Michigan Theatre, 
603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor
734-668-8397 | michtheater.org

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