Every other blog entry, I complain about living in Brooklyn, but the borough has a lot more to offer than I initially thought. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” author David Sedaris, my favorite writer of all time, will be visiting Brooklyn in early May!
He’s hosting a reading and book signing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on May 8, just in time for summer. This will be the third time we meet, as I saw him in 2010 and 2007 during his book tour visits to the University of Arizona.
The first instance we chatted, I confessed that I hadn’t yet read his books but was coming to his reading to get a signed book for my older sister, a big fan of his.
“Don’t waste your time on my books,” Sedaris said to me. “You have better things to do.”
I considered his advice until he recited a chapter of his memoir, which had me doubled over on the ground in laughter. Really. Inside my sister’s paperback book, Sedaris wrote that I was enchanting, a compliment I’ll never forget. That night, I finished “Me Talk Pretty One Day” in a single sitting and decided that Sedaris had the exact career I wanted for myself: To write books of essays on goofy life experiences.
It seems Sedaris and I are meant to cross paths every two years. I first met him in 2007, so by our second encounter in 2010, I had already become a full-blown fan. Kendra and I were the first people to show up to his reading, and I sat in his chair until he arrived.
We were the first to have our books signed, and in honor of his latest book on talking animals, he said he would draw our animal of choice in our books.
“What kind of animal would you like?”
“A pig,” I said.
“You know what? I struggle with my pig drawing skills, so thank you for this opportunity,” he said.
As he sketched out the swine, I confessed I dreamed of emulating his career and thanked him for showing me exactly which path I wanted to take. This put him in an obvious state of discomfort, but he laughed and warned me of the awkward times that go hand-in-hand with memoir writing and documenting the behavior of others.
I covered this well in my 2010 entry about him, so here’s exactly what he told me back then:
“I wrote about this rude dermatologist and then my friend called him when the book came out. I was like, ‘FUCK! I don’t want him to see what I said about him!’ So you have to be prepared for that.”
And I will be. I hope. Perhaps he can further help me out with this when he gets to New York. I can’t get enough of his essays, so let’s hope he pushes out another book soon. I need more laughing material besides his essays, “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” and “That’s Amore.” Here are some of my favorite excerpts from those works:
Essay about David Sedaris’s crude hillbilly brother, Paul:
“‘The Rooster’ is what Paul calls himself when he’s feeling threatened. Asked how he came up with that name, he says only, ‘Certain motherfuckers think they can fuck with my shit, but you can’t kill the Rooster. You might can fuck him up sometimes, but, bitch, nobody kills the motherfucking Rooster. You know what I’m saying?’
It often seems that my brother and I were raised in two completely different households. He’s eleven years younger than I am, and by the time he reached high school, the rest of us had all left home. When I was young, we weren’t allowed to say ‘shut up,’ but by the time Paul reached his teens, it had become acceptable to shout, ‘Shut your motherfucking mouth.’
My mother was, for the most part, delighted with my brother and regarded him with the bemused curiosity of a brood hen discovering she has hatched a completely different species. ‘I think it was very nice of Paul to give me this vase,’ she once said, arranging a bouquet of wildflowers into the skull-shaped bong my brother had left on the dining-room table. ‘It’s nontraditional, but that’s the Rooster’s way. He’s a free spirit, and we’re lucky to have him.’”
Here’s a funny portion of the essay, “That’s Amore,” which is about Sedaris’s rude New York neighbor Helen:
“My only real constant was Helen, who would watch Hugh leave the building, and then cross the hall to lean on our doorbell. I would wake up, and just as I was belting my robe, the ringing would be replaced by a pounding, frantic and relentless, the way you might rail against a coffin lid if you’d accidentally been buried alive.
‘All right, all right.’
‘What were you, asleep?’ Helen would say as I opened the door. ‘I’ve been up since five.’
‘Well,’ I’d tell her, ‘I didn’t go to bed until three.’
‘I didn’t go to bed until 3.30.’
This was how it was with her: if you got 15 minutes of sleep, she got only 10. If you had a cold, she had a flu. If you’d dodged one bullet, she’d dodged five. Blindfolded.
After my mother’s funeral, I remember her greeting me with, ‘So what? My mother died when I was half your age.’
‘Gosh,’ I said. ‘Think of everything she missed.’
With the exception of my immediate family, no one could provoke me quite like Helen could. One perfectly aimed word, and within an instant I was eight years old and unable to control my temper. I often left her apartment swearing I’d never return. Once I slammed her door so hard, her clock fell off the wall, but still I went back -’crawled back,’ she would say – and apologised. It seemed wrong to yell at a grandmother, but more than that I found that I missed her, or at least missed someone I could so easily drop in on. The beauty of Helen was that she was always there, practically begging to be disturbed. Was that a friend, or had I chosen the wrong word? What was the name for this thing we had?
Helen fell in the tub and sprained her wrist. While she was laid up, I went to the store for her. Hugh took down her trash and delivered her mail. Joe, a widower now, offered to help as well. ‘Anything that needs doing around the house, you just let me know,’ he told her.
He meant that he’d change lightbulbs or run a mop across her floor, but Helen took it the wrong way and threw him out of her apartment. ‘He wants to see my twat,’ she told me.”