Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Birthday David Sedaris

It's not often a person as jaded and cynical as I am finds himself so helpless with laughter he's gasping for breath; unless, that is, I'm reading the works of David Sedaris. Or, you know, there's 'something in the air' that's known to induce giggling, if you catch my meaning. A n y w a y...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1956, and raised near Raleigh, North Carolina, Sedaris has had the ideal life to make him either a noted and versatile humourist or a sad, bitter barfly: effeminitely gay from an early age, living in the American South - in the Sixties, no less! - a former drunk and drug addict, underemployable, short, and possessed of a voice ideal for silent films... Fortunately for everyone concerned, Sedaris learned to exploit the weirdness of his persona to great end, with a perspective so skewed it's a wonder it doesn't fall off.

He first came to the attention of readers in 1992, chronicling his travails in the employ of the R. H. Macy Company, in SantaLand Diaries on NPR; it's now must-read material here at the Pop Culture Institute during the holidays. Barrel Fever appeared in 1994; a cobbling together of essays from various sources, it's more scattered than his subsequent works, anarchic in the best sense of the word (meaning it sounds better than saying car-azay!*) and almost entirely fictional (again, in the best sense of the word).

Having learned to exploit his own weirdness in print, Sedaris turned his laser-like powers of description onto his family, including noted comedian and hostess Amy Sedaris, a favourite of ours here at PCI. 1997's Naked is a tour de force of the art of memoir that will make you think twice before buying brown towels, guaranteed; the same year's Holidays on Ice will similarly make you think twice before sending out that same old boring Christmas newsletter to all your friends and family. PCI's copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000) has been inscribed by his very own hand, with a similar clunking diction as its title; I must say, he is quite charming and affable in person.

The backlash waited, though, until after the 2004 release of his latest book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim when, thanks to James Frey and his ilk, the criticocracy decided to get its knickers all up in a snit over possible falsehoods contained in his work. First of all, if you want the truth, stay the Hell away from writers, is all I'm saying; when the larger truth is the intended target, nothing gets in the way like a whole mess of petty facts.

His most recent book - When You Are Engulfed in Flames - arrived in stores in June 2008, and was in my hot little hands mere moments later...

* That is, 'crazy', prounounced in a crazy way. ~ MSM

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