One of the most anticipated books of 2017: Boston Globe, New York Times Book Review, New York's "Vulture", The Week, Bustle, BookRiot An NPR Best Book of 2017 An AV Club Favorite Book of 2017 A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2017 A Goodreads Choice Awards nominee David Sedaris tells all in a book that is, literally, a lifetime in the making. For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences. Now, Sedaris shares his private writings with the world. Theft by Finding, the first of two volumes, is the story of how a drug-abusing dropout with a weakness for the International House of Pancakes and a chronic inability to hold down a real job became one of the funniest people on the planet. Written with a sharp eye and ear for the bizarre, the beautiful, and the uncomfortable, and with a generosity of spirit that even a misanthropic sense of humor can't fully disguise, Theft By Finding proves that Sedaris is one of our great modern observers. It's a potent reminder that when you're as perceptive and curious as Sedaris, there's no such thing as a boring day.
I kept a diary for long periods in my life. So, I like to read diaries. I read Samuel Pepys' diary. It took me two years. I read it in bed so every night the last line I read was usually, "And so to bed."
I thought it would be great to read David Sedaris's diaries. I have read several books by Sedaris and I've heard him on the radio. The first book I read was on recommendation by a library staff person.
I was living in a teeny rural town where the police chief had his own untrained militia and was armed with ex-military weapons, including a Hummer. I heard the KKK left flyers on driveways. The local church was splitting because the denomination was not strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay and anti-anything else progressive liberal. I went to the library and asked for funny books to raise my spirits, and I was given Holidays on Ice.
Its no wonder funding to libraries has been on the cutting block under the current administration.
Consquently, I should have known what I was getting into when I requested Theft by Finding, excerpts from his 156 volume diary kept between 1977 and 2002.
I had no idea.
"What I prefer recording at the end...of my day are remarkable events I have observed.."
And he has observed some pretty strange events.
At times I thought, what did I get myself into? Other times I laughed out loud, but no way was I going to tell anyone what was so funny. It's embarrassing to laugh at something so incorrect.
And yet, I realized, Sedaris's stories were, well, pretty believable for all their bizarreness. I lived in Philadelphia and seen some pretty weird stuff myself. But that's another story.
Also, Sedaris has some pretty spot-on insights.
One of my favorites is from November 17, 1987, Chicago. The police had caught a man who had smashed windows and painted swastikas on Jewish businesses. He was a skinhead with tattoos, Sedaris writes,"which is strange, I think, because Jews in concentrations camps had shaved heads and tattoos. you'd think that anti-Semites would go for a different look."
His self-knowledge is also commendable. On January 26, 1999, in Paris, he is called a misogynist. "No," I corrected her, "I'm not a misogynist. I'm a misanthrope. I hate everyone equally."
Sedaris is thoughtful. On December 31, 1998, he wrote that his dad, visiting him in Paris, had the evening before leaned near a candle and set his hair on fire. He wrote, "This morning we went to buy him a hat." Such a good son. Helping Dad keep his dignity by covering up the scorched hair.
In his forward, Sederis suggests readers peruse the book, sampling here and there, now and then. Good luck with that. Frankly, it's hard to put down.
I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
David Sedaris has compiled a book consisting of his diary entries from 1977 to 2002. This is the first volume. A second is to follow. In the past, I have appreciated his dry humor and enjoyed his poignant stories. This audio book, however, was beyond my ability to complete. Although he reads it well, in his deadpan manner, the subject matter and language is simply too low class and vulgar; the people he encounters and describes are simply all bottom feeders. Everyone is troubled, doped up, hostile and violent. He denigrates everyone on the basis of color, religion and sexual orientation. His portrayal of his life experiences in the first 2 ½ hours that I was able to listen to him was beyond what would be acceptable in polite company. I am not sure why he selected the particular incidents he did, perhaps for shock effect, but for me, it really fell flat. The content simply got too gross. Perhaps someone more open minded will enjoy it. Perhaps as the author gets more mature and more grounded, with a realistic direction for his life, his entries in the diaries will be more palatable, rather than a sample of a variety of trashy anecdotes which are unpleasant to learn about. For those faint of heart, stay clear.
I felt like I was watching him grow as both a writer and a person in reading this diaries. His entries from the 1970s are brief, usually a paragraph or two and about doing drugs or being broke and trying to find work After he becomes a student at the Chicago Art Institute, the entries become longer and more insightful. By the 1990s, his entries are more like actual essays and the most humorous entries of the book.
It was fun reading the diary entries and recognizing the events that would eventually become stories in his books or one of his essays. For instance, he writes about using his Stadium Pal, which became a hilarious story that was published in Esquire and that he read on David Letterman.
Because the entries are short, ranging from just a paragraph to around three pages, this is an easy book to pick up when you just have a short time to read. He writes in the introduction that this book, “Seems like the sort of thing you might dip in and out of, like someone else’s yearbook or a collection of jokes.” I found it to be a great book to take to the pool because I’m interrupted what seems like every two seconds by my kids wanting me to watch some trick they can do in the water. (“Watch me Mommy, watch me. Mommy, WATCH ME!) However, it was interesting enough to me that when I read it at night before bed, I had a hard time putting it down.
I can’t imagine that a fan of David’s wouldn’t love reading this book to gain more insight into his mind and learn more about his life beyond his humorous essays and books. I know I did.
Picked up Sedaris book from library. Read about 25-30 pages. I did not like it. Return to library.
"I modeled for Susan's drawing class this afternoon and had an eerie feeling that everyone was staring at me."
"The first hour is hosted by a woman who's interested in general problems and miserabilia."
" I dared myself to lean too hard against one of the living room windows yesterday, and it broke and cut my elbow up."
"Because I was in a bind with my BBC story, I devoted most of my afternoon to defrosting the freezer."
"A joke: Princess Diana and Mother Teresa are in heaven, and the latter isn't too happy. "It isn't fair, she says. "All those years I lived in squalor, devoting myself to the sick and suffering. All She did was attend cocktail parties and model clothes, so how come she has a halo and I don't?"
Then God says, "That's not a halo, it's a steering wheel."
"In LA yesterday I met a former book publicist. "Why did you quit?" I asked. She sighed. "I was tired of having authors call and say "My shower cap's too tight."
"Last night he was an imaginary interview. "yes, so you hid Jews in your attic? he said. "So tell me, where did you keep all your stuff?"
"My sister referred to herself as poor, and that depressed me. Most people would say they're broke. That word suggests a temporary setback. Poor, on the other hand, conveys a permanence."
Most diaries become impossibly dull as the writer delves too much into his or her interior life. But Sedaris' diaries are anything but. I was constantly riveted by the way his gimlet eye views the world and his place in it.
If you enjoy quirky humor you'll love this book.
Why, you might ask, would you care about snippets when we have so many wonderful David Sedaris essays? Because, I would answer, snippets of David Sedaris are just as good, entertaining, funny, thoughtful, and insightful as the essays.
These diaries chronicle Sedaris’ rise without actually emphasizing that rise. It shows his life as it is being led – no particular foreshadowing, no begging for sympathy of a hard life lived, no preconceived anything. Just interesting and fascinating things that happen around a person’s life. (if no other lesson is learned by the reader, it should be that we all need to pay more attention to the weird and interesting things going on around us that we just flat miss.) The contents show the struggling artist become the struggling literary star. But none of it is called out; again, it is just a life being lived.
Oh yea, the voyage is interesting and entertaining. There are insights into Sedaris’ life, but you also see the observational skills that make his writing so successful.
I don’t know that anyone should start their plunge into David Sedaris with this collection (I’d say Santaland Diaries is the place for that), but for those who understand they are reading something special when they read Sedaris’ work (the neophyte or the long-time fans like myself) this is a fun trip.
I could not stop. And considered starting the audio over again! Instead, I'll go back to Barrel Fever, and read up through 2002, saving Holidays on Ice for December, of course.
But actually: I love this. It's wonderfully uneven. Boring, funny, sad, scatological, and gay. But not all at once.