Despite the holiday season, you could cut the tension in most poorly ventilated rooms with a knife these days. So we’re going to have some fun, d**n it! And I can always rely on David Sedaris‘ army of strange autobiographical essays for a laugh. They’re irreverent, witty, succinct and dry as a bone. No topic is too taboo for this humorist: bodily woes, family dysfunction, sexuality, mortality. Despite some dark topics and takes on the world, I come away from finishing a collection with the simple satisfaction of being entertained.
With the recent publication of his compilation volume “The Best of Me,” I wanted to offer up my own selections of greatest hits which do not appear in the new release.
“SantaLand Diaries” is a classic and is often readers’ first exposure to David Sedaris, who writes on his humiliation and ensuing stunts during a brief stint as a department store elf. You can read it, but I suggest listening to it read aloud, whether as an audiobook or, better yet, the adaptation for radio read by the author himself and delightfully set to Vince Guaraldi Trio‘s “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
His peculiar brand of antics resurface in the stories “Calypso” and “Author, Author” as he meets readers out on book tours. He keeps things light by asking fans off-center questions or giving out small “gifts” like band-aids and aspirin at meet-and-greets. “Think of me the next time you get a hangover,” he tells them. Yet sometimes other people surpass his own quirks, as in “Blood Work” when Sedaris hilariously deflects a series of dropped hints from a flirtatious client with poor communication skills.
One of my favorite personalities he commonly portrays is his father, Lou. I’m reminded of my own dad by the story “Genetic Engineering” wherein he earns a captive audience of fishermen while pondering absurd hypothetical math problems. In a classic case of mistaken identity, “Attaboy” remembers the time his dad defended his mother’s honor against an unlucky teen. Prompt to act or speak his mind, one of Lou’s traits is his lack of a filter, which makes for some unfortunate parenting yet amusing content. He can’t help himself in fretting over his whimsical daughter Amy‘s desirability in “A Shiner Like a Diamond,” somehow forgetting her lifelong pattern of transforming herself through dress-up.
I could go on and on, but you’re better off reading the real deal. I hope his stories bring you some extent of respite from the current times.