Seattle has many things—wealth, rain, ramen—but at the top of the list of the city's blessings is the love of David Sedaris. For the second year in a row, the famed essayist and former Christmas elf has chosen to do a residency in Seattle as he workshops his next book. He could have gone anywhere, but, blessed be, he chose here. Perhaps his home in England gets too much sun.
With eight performances at Broadway Performance Hall over the course of a week, these are not typical book readings. Sedaris isn't even on a book tour. Instead, Sedaris will be reading from the manuscript for the forthcoming book Calypso. He does this before the publication of all of his books, seeing what works live and what doesn't in a smaller, more intimate setting. While there are few things beyond good weed that I'm willing to spend triple digits on, when Sedaris was in Seattle last year with his collection of diaries—diaries that later became the best seller Theft by Finding—I forked out $100 for two tickets. It was even better than good weed.
David Sedaris is a master of his craft, and his craft is making people laugh as much as it is writing. Perhaps it's in the genes—his sister Amy's new show, At Home with Amy Sedaris, is the best thing on TV since Strangers with Candy, and his family comes across in his books as just as hilarious and idiosyncratic as they are crazy. Whatever it is, the reading I attended last year was, in typical Sedaris fashion, droll, self-deprecating, observant, and, above all, judgy, of himself and everyone else. Some of what he wrote was shocking—the diary selections he read were mostly from 1970s North Carolina, when Sedaris was a young gay man and "faggot" was a term hurdled, not embraced—but today, he told the audience, he has his dream job and his dream life, and, yes, it's as good as you'd expect. Who could begrudge such a likable man for that?
That night, the audience—mostly middle-aged, mostly of the public-radio-listening variety—stopped laughing only long enough to wipe their eyes and thank god or good luck that David Sedaris chose Seattle. Afterward, I stood in line to get a book signed and I gave him a small, taxidermied animal paw of unknown origin that I had lying around. Not a week later, a postcard came in the mail: "Thanks again for that little paw," it read. "I think it came from a mole, so I won't feel too bad. Moles are assholes. At least the ones in my yard are." It's my greatest possession, and well worth the ticket price.
As for what Calypso entails, Sedaris's titles are cryptic, if not downright nonsensical, so there's really no telling. But whatever he's up to, it promises, like all his work, to deliver.