No Ordinary Princess

...anything but ordinary...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

David Sedaris, I Love this Man

I love David Sedaris...too bad he's openly gay and I am openly, predominantly, lesbian. You know, if there was ever a man I would've married, it could've only been someone who made me laugh, no...guffaw, no...whoot and holler from my toes to my scalp, tears streaming down my face and other body fluids streaming elsewhere. You know... Robin Williams! Kate Clinton! Tom Hanks! Christine Lavin! David Sedaris! Okay, Kate and Christine aren't men but, well, you get the picture.

I laughed just that way listening to Sedaris read his story, Nuit of the Living Dead, on NPR's Selected Shorts. I often listen only half-heartedly to Selected Shorts because, although I love short fiction, I prefer to get my stories by reading them. I'm not that much an auditory person...I get more out of a story visually. But this story, read by the author with his inimitable voice and cadence, demanded to be paid attention to. And I laughed far more at his retelling of his tale than I ever would have from reading it.

I laughed until i cried! And peed.

Nuit of the Living Dead recounts Sedaris' fears of staying the night alone in a vacation home in Normandy...three doors to the left of a cemetary. Here's what one reader had to say at Book Crossing:

The last story in the collection is "Nuit of the Living Dead," and had me laughing almost to tear-point - partially in recognition. Here's Sedaris, home alone in his remote French farmhouse, trying to dispatch a mouse that had been not-quite-killed in a trap, when some lost travelers stop by for directions. Their growing realization that this strange little man is not only apparently drowning mice for fun but is assembling a model of the human anatomy and has decorated his house with skulls and with pens shaped like human fingers... well, they seem unsettled. I wonder what strangers would make of my skull-and-gargoyle collection if they came upon it at three in the morning?
Here Jackson West recounts seeing Sedaris perform some pieces live, which he lighly recommends. Or just try to catch him on NPR...I've heard several small snippets from him on This American Life. His voice and inflection must be heard to be appreciated.

Jackon West's take on Nuit of the Living Dead is summarized here:
"Nuit of the Living Dead," the last piece, is something new - and soon to be published in the New Yorker in February. Here he takes on his new country situation in Normandy with a morbid overtone. While killing a mouse, he is surprised by some wayward germanics lost on the country roads of France. When he invites the driver inside to offer him a map, he realizes that in his morbid preoccupation with exterminating the vermin he picks up on all the varied things in his home that surely give him away as a serial killer - knick-knacks like knives and skulls, books on the occult, etc. This material was more purely comic, lacking the depth of some of the other pieces. It may be because he hasn't been working with it as long as the others, or even due to his relatively comfortable situation in life, that he is having a harder time finding the notes of discord and sadness that informed the other pieces. He also stooped to making fun of the tourist's pronunciation of "willage" for village - the kind of cheap joke about the Germans the French love, but that rings as hollow as the jokes about Japanese accents in "Lost in Translation.
Now, imagine this story being told by an openly gay man with no small helping of feminine aspects and a highly unusual voice and amazing gift for delivering the most hilarious things without missing a deadpan beat. Try as I might, I couldn't find either a hefty excerpt or a place to listen to Selected Shorts archived shows.

I have found, on This American Life's site, a place where you can listen to Sedaris TAL clips. I recommend it! It's one of those sites that I can't get individual page addresses on so just show up at the TAL site and type "david sedaris" in the search bar. A couple of them spring to mind...American in Paris, (#11, second page, rank 304) which I just heard on WHYY last weekend and I Enjoy Being a Girl, Sort Of, (#18, second page, rank 290) about the "fatty suit."

Nuit of the Living Dead was from Sedaris' collection of short stories and essays entitled Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim, published in 2004. Here's the Amazon page for the book along with David Sedaris' page.

tags: art / books / humor / literature / NPR / radio / theater


Anonymous Veronica said...

I like sedaris, but my mother in law is such a fan that I've burned out on him a bit. "Yeah, I get it. He's funny. Move on."

This is because I am no fun.

Also, it's always seemed to me that that is something irritable and vaguely sinister under Robin Williams hairy exterior. As if he cracks up occasionally and has Bukowski moments when he thinks no one is looking.

8/9/06 1:32 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I don't know if I could handle a steady stream of Sedaris but...when I heard him talking about trying to hold the crippled mouse under water with a broom handle as the van pulled up...well, that had me laughing uncontrollably and I didn't stop until the program was over!

As for Robin Williams, I've never gotten any weird vibe from him. Are you sure you didn't have some teddy bear trauma as a child???

8/9/06 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Veronica said...

Could be. I had a lot of teddy bears.

8/9/06 12:15 PM  

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