David Sedaris gave me a generous amount of time on Wednesday to talk about all sort of nonsense like Twitter. But by the time I transcribed a fraction of the conversation, I realized I was more-than out of my allotted space in Thursday’s Wave.
As you must know, he is giving a reading at 6 p.m. on Monday at Northern Lights Books & Gifts in Canal Park. You have to buy a book or audio book from the store for a ticket. Sedaris is the kind of writer who may set a world-record for time spent at a book signing, though. He once lasted 9 1/2 hours. So you will get your chance to talk to him about The Rooster, or Dinah the Christmas Whore, or holiday traditions from other countries translated.
So, here is some of the stuff that didn’t make the cut: (DS=Sedaris; CL=me)
MORE ON HIS BOOK INSCRIPTION PRACTICES
DS: I was watching Antique Road Show" and this man was selling autographed books from like 1820. One of the inscriptions was "With the author’s kind regards." I thought: "I’ll take that. Thanks much." … I always write them down. A good one, you just don’t want to forget it.
Sometimes people say "Write something offensive." Then, when you really do, they’re shocked. Like they just want something fake offensive. But if you truly write something offensive, they don’t really know what to do.
CL: Is there a line you won’t cross?
ON QUITTING SMOKING AND DRINKING
DS: It was very hard to write again after I quit both. I used to write while I was drinking and it was very difficult to not have that. I guess I just felt like the alcohol loosened me up, and I needed it for that reason. So then, what I did, I just changed the time of day I wrote. I used to write in the evenings, so I could drink and my day was over and it didn’t matter how drunk I got.
I just started getting up first thing in the morning and working. But now I go back to work in the evening. I can just drink tea and I never think "Damn, I wish I had a beer."
If I was at my desk for more than 3 1/2 hours, I’d already smoked so many cigarettes that my chest was starting to hurt. You know how it is when you excede your limit and get a cotton mouth and a cigarette headache. I never liked that feeling, but it was better than the alternative, which was to not smoke. Now that’s not a factor anymore. It was hard at first to write without smoking. That was harder than drinking.
I talked to my editor and he said "You’re not alone. Everyone’s gone through what you’ve gone through." It was good to think "You’re not special." I just did it later than everyone else. A cigarette could keep me at my desk often. Now I’ll go clean the bathroom sink. … A cigarette would allow you to pause and think and a physical activity like that is good in the same way.
BOOKS RECOMMENDED DURING RECENT LECTURE TOURS
DS: On my spring tour, I recommended Alan Bennett, and I recommended his audio book "Talking Heads," a series of monologues he had. … On my fall tour, I recommended "The Braindead Megaphone" by George Saunders. Then I went to Syracuse and George Saunders was in the audience. I’d never met him. Afterward, I said to him, "I can’t imagine what it’s like to sit in an audience and hear someone read your work. … I’d be like ‘Oh my god, you did that completely wrong. I could do better than that in my sleep.’"
[Tuesday night] the store had seven copies of "Our Story Begins" by Tobias Wolff, who I think is the best American living short story writer. … If you really want someone to buy it, you say "We hve seven copies of this, and I’m offering priority signing to whoever buys it." If you had the choice of buying a 15 dollar book and having your copy of my book signed now, or waiting another six hours? I know which I’d choose. Tobias would die of embarrassment if he knew I did that.
ON JINCY WILLETT, AUTHOR OF "JENNY AND THE JAWS OF LIFE"
(CL NOTE: This one is selfish. I just finished this book, and Sedaris wrote a glowing foreword)
DS: I wrote her a fan letter in 1986 when that book came out, and I asked her if she would mind if my friends and I did the story "The Best of Betty" as a puppet show. She gave us her permission. I wanted to write her back and tell her how it went. I was such a fan of her’s, I thought "Oh, that doesn’t sound right." I rewrote it, and thought "Oh, that’s going to sound stupid."
I was asked in an interview which out of print book I’d re-release. I said "Jenny and the Jaws of Life."
[The book was rereleased in the early 2000s.]
CL: How did the puppet show go?
DS: You can’t go wrong with that piece. You absolutely can’t go wrong with it. She’s such a … there’s no one quite like her.