I have made the conscious decision to read everything David Sedaris writes. He shares this honor with only three others: Gillian Flynn, Jane Austen, and J.K. Rowling under any pseudonym.
Sedaris was first introduced to me by my Writing Essays professor in college. That class allowed Creative Non-fiction to become my favorite genre. The writer is given the power to use any memory or dream and write about it in a creative way. Nothing is fictional, per say, but the writer is allowed some artistic liberties.
He has a voice that I connect with easily – full of this deadpan humor that is not quite laugh-out-loud worthy, but can go from amusing to tragic in a matter of words. In his essay “Hejira,” he describes bumming it in his parents’ basement after dropping out of college for the second time. Soon enough, his father kicks him out. When his mother drops him off to stay at his sister’s place, she is overwhelmed by something deeper than missing her son. He says, “I wouldn’t know it until months later, but my father had kicked me out of the house not because I was a bum but because I was gay.”
He builds up to these single, heart-breaking moments without the reader even knowing. The narrative will give off an air of casual indifference and then all of the sudden – catastrophe. But don’t worry, he follows each of these instances with more snark.
He regales us with tales of how his parents almost bought a beach house that one time but didn’t (“Ship Shape”), how his father made him go to a sleepover that he didn’t want to go to (“Full House”), how he helped a kid bring coffees up to his family’s hotel room once, but then was worried that he would be accused of being a complete pervert (“Chicken in the Henhouse”). Every essay outlines some seemingly insignificant moment, that, with a little perspective, gives a perfect glimpse into relationships, too complicated for words.
A testimony on the back cover of this book calls Sedaris “a complete master of the form.” I agree.
Seriously, pick up one of his books. No one brings such life to memory quite like him.
My overall rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Up Next: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen