David Sedaris

October 29, 2008 at 6:58 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 7 Comments

Trish of Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? and I went to see David Sedaris read from When You are Engulfed in Flames.  Naturally, he was quite funny and we really enjoyed the show, which was sold out.  After his reading, he graciously answered questions from the audience.  Having seen this, if I ever became a famous author I’m not sure I’d extend the same courtesy to my fans, which is proof that Sedaris has a heart of gold.  You won’t believe what the man puts up with.

A woman a few feet down in our row asked a question.  She was a big brassy blonde, and she puffed up like a pigeon when it was her turn to talk.  She went on for at least 60 seconds about how she’d seen him read before, had postponed surgery to see him again, had given him a book recommendation, and wanted to know if he had read the book.  Can you even imagine the pure unmitigated chutzpah?  He replied that he had not, and then explained that people are always giving him bits of papers, so that after a show he can’t remember what they’re all for.  The woman looked utterly, utterly thrilled with herself and his response.  We were ashamed to be sitting near her.

Now I have to tell you that the book was The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald.  I haven’t read it either, though it’s on my list, and I did read The Blue Flower, which was quite good.  But I do know the book by reputation.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would recommend a ladies’ book club-type book to David Sedaris, much less one with a bleak ending.  What put it into her head that he would like it?  Much less that she should feel entitled to hassle him about it in front of 1600 people three years later?  Mon dieu.

To make matters worse, one of the next questioners proved to be a local eccentric, an older lady in a very odd hat.  It was a sort of brocade jester hat and it wasn’t terribly flattering.  She said she had a radio show on which she had been reading chapters of Sedaris’s books for some time, and she wanted to know if it bothered him.  Not that she was asking permission, just whether it bothered him – as though that had been her goal.  He said it didn’t bother him, but it would if she pretended she had written them.

A man stood up and thanked Sedaris “for sharing your life with us.”  Isn’t that the sort of thing someone would say in a toast at a wedding or an anniversary party?  To someone they actually knew well?  We thought it was terribly presumptuous, on the one hand to act as though this artist is a personal friend, and on the other to assume that what we read accurately reflects his inner life.  Embarrassing!

The questions that weren’t asked were the obvious ones, to my mind.  When can we (eagerly) anticipate your next book?  Have you ever considered making a film?  Would you ever collaborate with your sister on a book?  Can you warn us ahead of time of the sorts of questions that are really rude?


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  1. That’s curious. I would have expected people to ask questions like the ones you thought of.

  2. I am so jealous that you got to see David Sedaris! I wouldn’t ask him a single question; I’d be too starstruck. Authors are my rockstars!

  3. What a humorous description of the event. I can just picture it. I was once asked if I could have any super power what would it be. My response: a common sense wand. I have never had trouble finding instances where it would be useful…just like the one you described.

  4. A common sense wand! I want one too! That would make one heck of a children’s book.

  5. […] My friend did a great job of telling about the crazy people in the audience. But please take note of the guy who thanked Sedaris for “sharing his life with us.” Who is the crazy person that thinks Sedaris hasn’t a) exaggerated his butt off (which is fine by me) or b) totally made stuff up? Seriously, Sedaris hasn’t “shared his life with us.” There’s probably a grain of truth to his stories, and his family is probably kooky-er than your average family, but really. Sedaris hasn’t become rich on sharing his life with us. […]

  6. I saw Sedaris a few years ago, and someone in the audience started heckling him about the fair treatment of animals or something. I can’t remember what brought it on, but Sedaris handled it fairly well. Perhaps there’s something about him that draws an odd crowd…not sure what that says about us! LOL.

  7. I don’t remember anyone asking an embarassing question when I saw him a few months ago, but I can tell you that the phenomenon of readers thinking they are close personal friends with writers is alive and well every single time I have an author signing at my store, whether it’s for a big, nationally bestselling author or a local person no one’s ever heard of. There’s always at least one person who wants to be best friends. It’s terribly entertaining to watch, but I would hate to be in the authors’ shoes.

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