The essayist talked culottes, aging, and more at Bethesda's premier cultural venue.
The Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland, was the first stop on David Sedaris's recent tour. I found out from the author himself as he signed my copy of Naked, sketching the dangly floral earrings I was wearing on the title page. He drew an ear with neon-pink Sharpie.
"This is in case you lose them and need to show it to the police," he said, handing back my book. No matter how long the line gets he's always personable with fans, asking questions, finding some personal touch to add to the experience.
Before the show, he turned the spotlight over to a young writer named John Thorson, who read a short piece titled "Jason and the Astronauts." Centered on a murderous little leaguer, the story fit in perfectly with Sedaris's brand of dark humor and set the tone for what would follow. Outfitted in a Commes des Garcons jacket and culottes, the writer took to the podium in his trademark glasses, a bundle of papers at the ready.
One of the perks of seeing Sedaris live is new material, which comprised most of the reading. The stories ranged from his eclectic taste in fashion to living in England with his longtime partner, Hugh Hamrick. An anecdote involving a particularly unpleasant medical procedure he underwent in London had the whole room howling, as did his ever-popular diary entries. He read a series of clips he wrote for CBS Sunday Morning, where he's started contributing brief, humorous observations for the network's morning program.
But probably the most personal of the stories that night was a piece about his father, who recently suffered a stroke. Sedaris approached it with the wry wit that's become a signature of his work, striking that rare quality of making hard-to-discuss topics, like aging, funny -- even moving. It's enjoyable to read his stories, but even more so to hear him read them live, as his delivery and tone bring these very real people (i.e., his family) to life.
Sedaris makes a point of recommending a book on each of his U.S. tours. This time he chose A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma, a short-story collection. Sedaris raved about it and noted how he enjoyed reading it to study its construction. His appreciation for lesser-known authors is apparent, and admirable for a writer of his stature.
The show ended with a brief Q&A. A person towards the front asked what his favorite kind of salted butter was. Sedaris's face cracked into a smile, delighted by its absurdity. As were we all.
Anyone else a fan of David Sedaris? Tell us your favorite book by him in the comments!