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Thursday, February 27

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Events Tue Apr 20 2010

David Sedaris: Fable Writer?

David Sedaris's cousin Nancy is principal of an elementary school for troubled children in Florida. One time, Sedaris recalled in a Jan. 29, 2010, diary entry, she showed him a photo of a "certified therapy horse" wearing sneakers that was brought to the school for the children to read to. His first question: "Why is he wearing sneakers?"

At a Saturday night reading at Roosevelt University's Auditorium Theatre, Sedaris, best-selling author of seven personal-essay collections, delivered excerpts from his personal diary and from unpublished pieces to a sold-out audience, commenting with his inimitable, dry wit on the world we live in. From the theater's sixth floor (row B), it was impossible to make out Sedaris's facial features, but his high-pitched voice with a hint of a Southern accent -- often heard on public-radio shows like This American Life -- was unmistakable.

This deceptively sweet voice, with its mischievous tone and perfectly timed pauses, made each snarky blow hit harder. Reading from an unpublished essay about issues that befall airline passengers, which he "may have read a few pages [from] the last time he was here," he told a story of being in line at a Colorado airport's customer-service desk, waiting to reschedule a connecting flight to Portland. He noticed a family in line in front of him, with two 50-ish parents, two teenage boys, and a teenage girl holding a baby. One of the boys -- the one wearing the "freaky mothafucka T-shirt," of course -- was the father. When a woman in line commented to Sedaris about how the ones having babies are the ones who shouldn't, the humorist wanted to agree with her, as long as her opinion wasn't "tied to a conservative agenda" and instead came from a "petty and judgmental" place, like his. Just to be safe, he simply responded, "What gets me is that they couldn't even spell 'motherfucker' right."

On a tour of 36 cities in 36 days, Sedaris also read stories from his forthcoming book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (Little Brown & Company), set to come out in October. Illustrated by Ian Falconer, best known for the Olivia series, the book includes fable-like stories about "animals that do things that people do." In "Faithful Setter," for example, a purebred Irish setter tells the story of his marriage to a "mixed-breed country girl," who is one-quarter spaniel and cusses like a sailor. Even when she cheats on him with the bull terrier that lives across the street, the setter remains loyal because he can't imagine loving anyone else (if that description sounds cheesy, don't fear--there is definitely some classic Sedaris raunch in there -- at one point, our narrator wonders what his wife's hysterectomy tastes like).

According to Brian Babylon, host of Chicago Moth StorySLAM, who introduced Sedaris, you've really made it when you have at least seven Facebook pages with your name on them.

Sedaris's next stop is Akron, OH, on Apr. 21. For a full schedule of his appearances, go here.

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