I’ve long been a fan of David Sedaris. Years ago, I saw him perform as part of a This American Life tour with Ira Glass. So, I was happy earlier this month to see him perform again when his tour passed through town.
If you regularly read his books or his essays in the New Yorker, you really should try to see him in person. As good as he is on the page, his stories are even better when he reads them in person. A close second would be the audiobook recordings of any of his books. And if you haven’t read his books, you should start. Naked or Me Talk Pretty One Day are both good places to begin.
Something that struck me the second time around is how well-read Sedaris is. Maybe this says more about me as a twenty-something the first time I saw him than it does him or his earlier writing. But in the question and answer period at Wolf Trap this time, Sedaris had a thoughtful answer to “what books are you recommending these days?”
He answered that on his book tour last spring, he recommended Blake Bailey’s The Splendid Things We Had Planned: A Family Portrait. Bailey is most well-known for his award-winning biography of American author John Cheever. He also wrote a poignant set of articles for Slate magazine about moving back to post-Katrina New Orleans. Bailey and Sedaris share similar family histories, and Splendid Things will ring true for those familiar with Sedaris’s essays about his sister Tiffany, who committed suicide two years ago. Bailey’s interview with Sedaris in Vice magazine is a moving description of the toll that a sibling’s mental illness takes on a family. The article is aptly titled "David Sedaris Talks About Surviving the Suicide of a Sibling."
For his fall tour, Sedaris said he plans to recommend the audio recording of True Grit by Charles Portis read by Donna Tartt – no slouch in the literary world herself and most recently author of The Goldfinch. He commented cheekily that we all knew her writing was pretty good, but after hearing this, he thought it was like she was meant to read audiobooks. That’s pretty high praise. I immediately placed it on hold.
Interested in seeing what else Sedaris has recommended in the past? Then check here, here, or in My Ideal Bookshelf, a fun volume of colorful illustrations based on literary picks of famous artists, authors and other cultural figures. But really, you ought to see him in person and hear it for yourself.
-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library