Casual Fun Idea: Read David Sedaris’ Theft By Finding, Diaries 1977-2002

As expected, the book is a delight. Imagine taking a peek at David Sedaris’s diaries and reading about stuff that happened to him in real life, from the ‘70s through to early ‘00s. Of course, these had already been edited, but they’re ‘raw’ compared to the finished and/or stylized essays in his other books.

Some observations, thoughts, feelings:

1. He’s a well-known author with a huge following, so of course his diaries would be of great interest to millions of people who’ve read him and love him. But a book filled with seemingly nondescript, humdrum entries would have to be extraordinarily entertaining to be worth buying. So thank goodness his diaries are funny. I think it’s difficult to fake funny.

2. It’s great to read a famous author’s diaries and not have it be packaged as an ’insightful peek’ into his inner life. It definitely is that, but it’s terrific that it’s just really a collection of his diaries, like, ‘here are David Sedaris’s diaries, culled from his years of diarizing, transcribed from his numerous notebooks. We think you’ll enjoy it, and some of you, we’re pretty sure, will do find it immensely readable, enjoyable. Some of you will not, and that’s okay.’

3. Some of the most interesting, life-changing events happened in the ‘90s. It’s when he moved to New York. It’s when he ‘decided’ to have a crush on his long-time partner Hugh. It’s when he found work as an Elf in Macy’s, which resulted in the hilarious ‘Santaland Diaries.’ Thank you, ‘90s.

4. If you’re thinking of keeping a diary, try to leave out most of your thoughts and feelings. Just tell your notebook what happened and see how it turns out after several days’ or weeks’ entries. Hilarity, comedy, drama, tragedy could still ensue if you diarize well.

5. You really could make something out of your diary entries, compile them and turn them into a bestselling collection of essays. The ‘trick’ is to buy small notebooks that you can carry around wherever you go.

6. It’s difficult to determine whether he knew his diaries would be read by the general public someday, and whether that line of thinking was a contributing factor in creating what is now ‘Theft by Finding 1987-2002.’ He just kept writing and look how that turned out.

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I Have a New Catcher in the Rye

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It is with so much delight that I’m announcing David Sedaris’s Barrel Fever as my new Catcher in the Rye. This is great news for me, for you, and for my very, very few friends. Congratulations, everyone, we no longer have to suffer the Holden Caulfield affectation, a spectacular achievement in execution failure though it may have been. I’ve also just finished David Shields and Shane Salerno’s ‘Salinger’ and read with great interest the Assassination section, specifically Mark David Chapman’s, and I’m symbolically cowering in shame for being guilty of the same crime as him: overlooking the humanity behind Holden’s profanity-laden but sobering view of humankind. My misreading, though, is not as total as MDC’s. My love for Holden stemmed (yes, stemmed) from his unfamiliarity with his own person (yes, person) the loveliness of which I feel strapped itself to my very own unfamiliarity with mine. We didn’t/don’t know the world, our place in it, and that was lovely in a movie, literary setting kind of way, but in your late 20s, not knowing your place in the world is just infuriating. Yes, I’ve already proclaimed freedom from the clutches of JD Salinger’s penetrating worldview, but if Mariah Carey can proclaim emancipation three times, why shouldn’t I?

When JD Salinger died, I rushed to Fully Booked and bought a hardcover Catcher in the Rye because I’m not the kind who idolize properly and sensibly. I might be sick with a disease characterized by uncontrollable urges to spend on things as a sad gesture of undying admiration. I might be suffering from a kind of psychological disorder that does not let me rest until I physically own something of the worship-figure. The easiest, most obvious explanation would be that I am a goddamned fool.

With Barrel Fever, there can never be a misreading, a misinterpretation, not even a silly attempt to embody a persona of an esteemed literary character. Maybe one: Adolph Heck, named after history’s most vicious imposer of viciousness, in the collection’s funniest story, Barrel Fever. A mother naming her son Adolph is guaranteed a slayer of me. I love Adolph and his mother. I love that Adolph’s sisters are named Faith, Hope, Joy and Charity. I love how he mocks his friend who once was his closest ally in mocking the mockable but who now has clung to nice persons.

Barrel Fever has become essential reading, a warder of the blues, a pair of shades in a dessert storm, a pair of truly dependable earbuds for Metro Manila life, a pair of balls in your ballsless days, etc. A Barrel Fever is a best friend.

Each reading of Barrel Fever for me is fresh. Sometimes I want to live in it and lap up the freshness.

If one day you find yourself in the pages of a Barrel Fever-like publication authored by myself, and you feel like pressing charges for character defamation because you Feel like I have cruelly borrowed and repackaged one of your least attractive characteristics and turned it into a bestseller, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. If you decide to press charges, sue me for libel, you will find me in court carrying a tattered copy of Barrel Fever, with the words, ‘This is my statement!’ scribbled beside blurbs that proclaim it as ‘breathtakingly irreverent’. ‘This is my statement!’ — the very words written in Mark David Chapman’s copy of Catcher in the Rye, a piece of woeful evidence that was brought to court for the trial of the crime of gunning down one of the world’s most famous Beatle, 1/4 of Mariah Carey’s Billboard Hot 100 nemesis, John Lennon. I do not ever wish to reach the same level of insanity but there is a need for me to make friends with things whose reason for existing is to supply me with joy.

I may have already confessed an attachment for this Sedaris book, and even though the retelling of this attachment seems to go against what Adolph Heck feels about saying the same thing twice: ‘…nothing gets on my nerves more than someone repeating the same phrase twice. I think it’s something people have picked up from television, this emotional stutter. Rather than say something interesting once, they repeat a cliche twice and hope for the same effect,’ I feel it’s a necessary retelling. This is my statement!

The David Sedaris in You

Sometimes you feel like David Sedaris’ peoples are you when you were young and that he had you in mind or someone like you when he created the silly characters. You identify with the guy who hitchhikes in the middle of a highway and can’t make up his mind about whether or not he’d give the kindly burly truck driver a hand job, because he’s high and clueless about the ramifications of an innocuous hand job. You feel an affinity with the troubled boy from Naked with what can only be described as the early manifestations of a lifelong possession of really strange behavior, the one who has uncontrollable urges to lick things – the boy who eventually finds a strange kind of solace in cigarettes.

You feel like the boy narrating below is you when you were 23:

Growing up, my parents were so very into themselves that I got little love and attention. As a result, I would squeeze the life out of everyone I came into contact with. I would scare away my dates on the first night by telling them that this was it, the love experience I’d been waiting for. I would plan our futures. Everything we did together held meaning for me and would remain bright in my memory. By the second date, I would arrive at the boyfriend’s apartment carrying a suitcase and a few small pieces of furniture so that when I moved in completely I wouldn’t have to hire a crew of movers. When these boyfriends became frightened and backed away, I would hire detectives to follow them. I needed to know that they weren’t cheating on me. I would love my dates so much that I would become obsessed. I would dress like them, think like them, listen to the records they enjoyed. I would forget about me!

It’s so hilarious to see your experiences and feelings available in paperback, sold worldwide, translated in 20+ languages, for the all the world to read. You’re being scandalized but you’re cramping from the hilariousness. He allows you to laugh at yourself because it’s funny when David Sedaris characters are yourself.

In highly self-aware states, you feel like you’re this kind of Sedaris:

I was the guest who went from loving too much to being loved too much. Everybody loves me. I’m the most important person in the lives of almost everyone I know and a good number of people I’ve never even met. I don’t say this casually; I’m just pointing out my qualification.

You can tell that whoever says these things about himself must be feeling the exact opposite of what was just described. You’re delirious with mirth when you see yourself as one of these delusional, self-deprecating types in the Sedaris world.

Sometimes you see yourself as the David Sedaris of Me Talk Pretty One Day: the bright, shining crutch to the worldly, wonderful boyfriend who only has your best interests at heart, or so you believe. As a David Sedaris in MTPOD, what you basically are is a person in France, really trying to live the French culture, surrounded by French peoples and things, and trying your damndest to learn French that often frustrates you. Sadly, when it comes to conjugating French verbs, you’re an absolute failure. The point is that there’s a David Sedaris in you. Find it, nurture it, laugh at it.