He really, really did. Wow. I was blown away. His entire reading blew me away–it’s so rare for someone to have this build up, this rep, this aura, and then you go see them and you’re like, “Well fuck me. He IS the real deal.”
It reminded me of the Warren Zevon documentary I saw when I was living in northern Guam, “Keep Me in Your Heart,” about Zevon, an accomplished singer-songwriter, and the final year of his life battling lung cancer. There is a scene in the film where Bruce Springsteen shows up to play a guitar riff for one of Zevon’s songs. And Springsteen picks up the guitar, thumbs it a bit, and then just wails–I mean he fucking goes off! He just bangs this guitar into some magical space, some place of crazy notes and mediation and BASE jumping all wrapped into one; and then–sudden hum of silence–he stops. Stillness in the studio. A couple pro musicians just mouth open looking at Springsteen, all these guys who thought they were jaded, who had pretty much seen it all, all of then dangling there after his last note, stunned.
And Zevon deadpans, “Man, you are him.”
Sedaris is the real thing. This is no Pyrite I am preaching. I went. I saw. The man kicked some exponential dinosaur ass.
How did it happen?
I ate lunch. I didn’t know what to have for such a big night. Anxiety settled on me like a technical specification. I felt the manual of my soul. I grabbed things. I grabbed corn tortillas, soured creams, pickled jalapeno peppers. I thought, Will this work? Will this please me?
It pleased me yes.
I taught class, went home, opened a new disc golf disc in the mail, petted my rangy dog, hugged the kids, put a pizza in the oven for the babysitter, and D and I were ready to roll.
What will we drink? Will it be cloudy and true?
The entire reading was high quality, with my only complaint being the couple directly behind us. You had the whole NPR crowd thing going on–slinky young hipsters, slouching aging hippies, everyone wearing the skinniest fucking eyeglasses in the universe–and that’s cool (I heard there was even some guy in his thirties trying to pull off a ponytail), but this couple over my shoulder would not shut the hell up. They were classic Over-Laughers. Anything out of Sedaris’s mouth and it was guffaw time for these two. Sedaris could have said, “Dry sock, dry sock or wall” and this couple would have been rolling.
I think they were insane.
David Sedaris Highlights:
1.) Sedaris read only works-in-progress. In fact, he had just written many of these drafts, and explained that giving readings is how he works and reworks material. He actually stood there with a pencil line-editing the pages as he read aloud. Very cool, and I hope my students noticed the process. I also hope they heard him say, “My essays need about 12 revisions. I usually give revision # 9 to my editor.”
2.) Sedaris read a few longish essays, and they were OK. But then he went to what he called “my diaries.” Wow. This was inventive, quirky material. He read to us about making cheese out of breast milk and about stealing a kid’s toy dinosaur and then addressed the men in the world who sleep with other men but claim they are not gay. Sedaris said, “If you put the dick in your mouth, you have to accept the word that comes with it.”
Funny, edgy stuff.
3.) Listen to this! Sedaris read a short piece about a woman who loved the taste of communion wafers, but could never find them in bulk to snack on. The church wouldn’t help her; they said, “You can’t buy the flesh of Christ.” So the woman took things into her own hands. She changed her sex to become a man, went to seminary school, and then joined the priesthood. Why? To have access to wholesale quantities of communion wafers. So then she buys them in bulk and melts cheese on them and adds salsa and I quote Sedaris…
“SHE MADE COMMUNION WAFER NACHOS!!”
Easily the highlight of the night for me. I glowed.
My final thoughts on Sedaris were these: Before the reading, I kept thinking, “Why would David Sedaris come to Muncie, Indiana?” It isn’t the money, or the couple hundred books he’ll sell, and sure as hell isn’t the incredible flatness and persistent wind. Etc.
Now, after seeing him, signing books for hours (before and after the reading), reading for hours, chatting with readers, up there on the stage answering questions, all of this with an open personality, a friendly grin, a shrug and handshake, and so on, I know: David Sedaris loves readings. Period. This also explains why he has been writing about giving readings so much lately. This is what he does! Even his writing process is now meshed with these readings. Amazing. An amazing guy, really.
If you have a chance to see him, GO.
(since he reads perpetually around the world, you will have a chance eventually)