It took about three years for me to finally snag tickets to see David Sedaris ~ Sure, I had to buy the tickets about four months ago and I shelled out $100 to basically watch someone read out loud for 90 minutes and it took a two hour drive down to San Jose in rush hour traffic....but oh was it worth it. If you have not seen David Sedaris, do it soon. My addiction to Sedaris started with Me Talk Pretty One Day, then onto Naked, and then Holidays On Ice ~ I feed my habit by listening to his stories on "This American Life". I've heard that listening to the audio books of his work is the best way to read/hear his stories ~ he is a master storyteller ~ perfect cadence and rhythm and hilarious writing. I can personally vouch for the perfect-ness of a David Sedaris podcast on a road trip ~ you will love it.
So, "the concert." The theater at the Center for the Performing Arts was absolutely sold out ~ 2,665 seats; 800 tickets were at Will Call. I've never seen so many book-nerd-hipsters, young and old, in my life; it was Heaven. We got there late but the show had not started yet; we had time to get to our seats. However, contrary to the dotted line on the on-line seating chart, there is NO middle aisle in this crazy theater and so to reach our seats, dead-center Row 22, we had to climb over about 80+ people. I hoped they could not smell the whiskey on my breath as I came face to face, nose to nose, with a few less-than-pleased early-bird senior citizens.
There were no long introductions, no Bio, no fanfare ~ Sedaris walked out, fumbled with some papers, smiled at us, sipped some water and explained how The New Yorker, or maybe NPR, or maybe some other magazine, had asked him to contribute a story to a collection where the theme was language, or rather, language misunderstandings in other countries. He explained he didn't like what he wrote, so instead he submitted the story he was about to read to us, about misunderstandings between Americans, sometimes in other countries. We laughed non-stop for the duration of the 15-20 minute reading ~ I can't even explain the story but can only tell you that halfway through, somehow, it involves the story of an American friend who visited them in France, and the level of insecurity Sedaris felt by the perfect French the friend spoke; so threatened in fact, that he responded to the American friend's French questions in Japanese, just to feel superior; and then somehow the story ends with a diatribe about wild rabbits in their garden, beginning with the rabbit he named "Chagrin!" (uttered in an explosive guttural French accent), then a dispute with his houseguest over whether chagrin actually means "regret" versus "sorrow," and ending with the rabbit he named in honor of their house guest, something like, "So Glad He's Never Fucking Coming Back."
After we all caught our breath and paused from laughing so hard, Sedaris explained that the magazine turned DOWN his submission, saying it was just a collection of, or a mish-mash of, moments; and that it "didn't really add up to anything". He shrugged and said,
If you count non-stop laughter as 'nothing'.
Oh, his bitter bite was priceless. Speaking of priceless, at the end, he read us excerpts from his Diary. In one he described either an ad he had seen, or something he did, or wanted to do ~ who knows, something like: "One large vat of Vaseline, $2.99; one six-pack of condoms, $12.99. Making your parents think your brother is Gay: priceless."
He also told us how he generally signs books before (and after) each show. Before the show, if he knows there will be no Emcee to introduce him, Sedaris will pay a stranger, preferably a teenager, $20 to introduce him. Recently, he paid a 16 year old girl $20 to introduce him ~ he told her to get out there and say her name and age (definitely say your age), and then tell everyone that I paid you $20. Of course, the audience roared with laughter ~ and Sedaris explained, "imagine being that 16 year old girl who just made a room full of nearly 3,000 people laugh ~ try to turn your back on that!" At the end of the show, he takes questions and someone asked him if, given his insecurities, performing live had lived up to his expectations. He answered simply, "Oh. It certainly has." He loves it, and it shows, and it's great.
After each show, he gives away one copy of his book published in another language ~ but only if you speak that other language. The night before he had given away a Slovenian copy of one of his books. Monday night, he was giving away the French translation of "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" ~ somehow, the title had been translated to "Habillez votre famille pour l'hiver" ("Dress Your Family For Winter").
During the show he read a story he will include in his next book ~ he is still working out the kinks, and (to me anyway) it was fun to hear something the general public hasn't heard yet. He also read "Crybaby," which he said will be published in The New Yorker in a month or so ~ it involves tales of his trans-Atlantic trips from New York to France, getting used to Business Elite Class, flight attendants at a show who clued him in on "crop-dusting" (you don't want to know), a Polish man on the plane mourning the death of his mother (Sedaris felt the man "overdid it" at one point), and Sedaris' own reaction, involving tears, to the in-flight Chris Rock movie. Oh yes ~ read that story when it comes out!
After the show, and after 90 minutes of continuous laughter, peppered with a few gasps of shock at some parts, 2665 people poured out of the theater onto the clean quiet streets of Downtown San Jose. We talked about how fun live performances are, everything from getting there to the audience to the performer and the euphoric feeling afterwards. The show reminded me how much I like to read to, read with, other people, and to be read to ~ really. I love finding that one sentence (or 10) that I fall in love with, and absolutely having to read it out loud to you ~ to hear the sentence structure build, to feel the emotion of it roll off my tongue, to see the smile it evokes in you, or the glint in your eye of recognition or admiration of the writing. All of my books ~ they are highlighted and I keep almost all of them, just in case I ever want to go back and lose myself in a sentence, or a paragraph. The record highlighting is in any Raymond Chandler book, but primarily in my tattered copy of "The House of Mirth," where some of my favorite lines say:
"It is surprising how little narrow walls and a low ceiling matter, when the roof of the soul has suddenly been raised...."
"Light comes in devious ways to the groping consciousness...."
"Lily smiled at her classification of her friends. How different they had seemed to her a few hours ago! Then they had symbolized what she was gaining, now they stood for what she was giving up. That very afternoon they had seemed full of brilliant qualities; now she saw that they were merely dull in a loud way. Under the glitter of their opportunities she saw the poverty of their achievement."
Most recently, the highlighter has been bestowed upon pages and pages of "Beyond The Earth and The Sky" and even, begrudgingly, a few small sections of "Eat Pray Love." Right now, though, I'm reading "The Devil In The White City," at the suggestion of my smart and well-read friends Ginger and Sebastian. The story is amazing and I turn the pages feeling like I'm on the edge of my seat; the suspense is powerful and fun. The book is about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair ~ so the history of architecture, city planning, labor issues, enormous civic pride, not to mention a serial murderer in the midst, makes for a dazzling story. I'm almost done with the book but way back on page 17 I liked this:
Abruptly there was color everywhere: the yellow streetcars and the sudden blues of telegraph boys, jolting past with satchels full of joy and gloom; cab drivers lighting the red night-lamps at the backs of their hansoms; a large gilded lion crouching before the hat store across the street. In the high buildings above, gas and electric lights bloomed in the dusk like moonflowers.
Oops. How'd I get here? This was supposed to be short ~ to the point: GO SEE DAVID SEDARIS. How did all this time and blathering on happen? I guess the point really is: I like to read, and to be read to, and to read to people ~ how's 'bout you?