Once again, I’ve found myself at the prestigious Cal State University Northridge Valley Performing Arts Center. The occasion, you ask? Why, David Sedaris’ reading on his Let’s Explore Owls With Diabetes tour was the occasion, Sir or Madame. Sedaris, who is currently wrapping up his American 45-city tour, made CSUN his 42nd stop, and thank goodness for that.
Sedaris entered the stage with a young man in tow, dressed nicely and smiling. “This is Jason,” Sedaris explained. “He’s from North Carolina, and he’s currently looking for a job, and he’s not leaving here tonight without one!” Sedaris then gave the floor to his younger friend, who explained his credentials and education, with Sedaris giving out his phone number multiple times. “He’ll be out at the signing table after the show, so please don’t hesitate to give him your business card.” Such an introduction only further endeared the peculiar author to his excited audience.
Sedaris read essays from his latest book, delivered some monologues he had written – some of the first fiction he had done in years – and relayed stories that had recently been in the New Yorker. What’s truly captivating about Sedaris’ writing is his unique ability to keep his readers on their toes. Just when you think an essay may have lost steam or plateaued in its hilarity, Sedaris brings in an element or nuance that pushes it over the top yet again. “I used to think the ideal name for a beach house was the Ship Shape. Now, though, I had a better idea. ‘We’re going to call it the Sea Section’, ” Sedaris mused. His writing is as if he is constantly challenging himself to be more engaging and captivating at every turn. Such a style of narrative is among the greatest in the field of essaying today.
After his longer pieces, Sedaris read some of his more recent journal entries, wherein he had been in American locations and European locations. The stark contrasts between America and European nations were hysterical, but the greatest laughs came when Sedaris examined human nature and its commonality trans-nationally.
Included in the night was Sedaris’ book recommendation. The night’s featured book was a collection of accounts from people in North Korea. “You know,” said Sedaris, “I didn’t know what kind of place North Korea was before I read this book, but I had a feeling it was pretty bad. I thought this book might restore some faith of the country in my mind. Then I read the book – North Korea is awful.” Sedaris promotes books every night of his tour – works of fiction and nonfiction he enjoyed and wishes his readers to enjoy as well. For an author of such clout to take time out of his set to talk up another author’s work further added to Sedaris’ humbled and kind personality.
The only thing about tonight was I never quite got a toehold during the Q&A. All of a sudden we were talking about The Four Seasons and I thought to myself, ‘How did we end up here?’
Sedaris rounded out the evening with a Q&A session, answering admittedly benign questions such as, “Do you use one space after a period or two?” and “What’s your favorite hotel to stay at?” Sedaris happily and thoughtfully answered all the questions, despite their lack of interest or meaningfulness.
Sedaris rushed out after the reading to do a signing in the VPAC’s lobby, where a line steadily built and wrapped around the inside of the building. Yours truly got a program signed, as Sedaris made nice small talk to my girlfriend and I. My girlfriend mentioned that we had paid $25 apiece for tickets, only to find a few days later that free tickets were being offered to CSUN students.
“You two are students here?” Sedaris asked. He then pulled a bag out from under the table and procured two small hotel-sized bottles, one of shampoo and one of body wash. “I feel bad the two of you spent money on me, so here’s a small consolation gift. Oh, and please grab some chocolate from that bowl on your way out, but make sure to take a napkin with you.”
Sedaris could not have been a more charming and pleasant man, which helped culminate the night in an incredible way. Said Sedaris, “The only thing about tonight was I never quite got a toehold during the Q&A. All of a sudden we were talking about The Four Seasons and I thought to myself, ‘How did we end up here?’” Nonetheless, Sedaris delivered a fantastic night of comedy, literary wit, and subtle genius.
Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.