In case you ever got the ridiculous impression that I am suave, let me clear that right up for you with a story.
In either 2007 or 08, I went to a live reading by David Sedaris. Perhaps you know him? Writes hilarious personal essays, often appears on the radio show This American Life, does an uncanny impression of Billie Holliday… Anyway, I first became a fan around 2003 when I read Me Talk Pretty One Day, and have giggled over several of his books since.
Naturally, I was excited to hear him read at Royce Hall in Los Angeles. I got to the theatre way too early and ended up milling around outside for a while. It was pretty empty – one of the few others there was this man wandering around by himself, eating a sandwich. There was something peculiar about him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was the flagrancy of his sandwich-eating. Like who does he think he is, right? Just eating a sandwich, like, right there? Doesn’t he know he’s about to see a David Sedaris reading?
I’m fuzzy on the details, probably because I blew up in a cloud of awkwardness, but what happened next was the man finished his meal, went around chatting to people who were now arriving, eventually made it to me and the person I came with, talked with us while I was like “why is this stranger talking to us, what’s his deal,” and then finally introduced himself as…
… David Sedaris.
OH MY GOD.
I was so embarrassed! Because here I was, a FAN of David Sedaris, AT a David Sedaris reading, and the whole time I DIDN’T RECOGNIZE HIM AS DAVID SEDARIS.
How?? I guess I never looked closely at his photo? Or I was thrown off by him eating a sandwich like a normal person? As if famous writers don’t enjoy a salami on rye, or even require sustenance at all, or something?
Anyway, I apologized and laughed and apologized again, explaining that I hadn’t realized it was him and oh my god I’m sorry, that must be so insulting, sorry sorry, I really am a fan I promise, sorry sorry! He was totally nice about it, then he went in to do his reading while I fell over and died.
And that’s my brush with a celeb!
Which brings us to my pick for the 800s section of my Dewey Decimal Discovery project: Barrel Fever, by David Sedaris, DD# 814.54. This is an early book of his, one I knew of but hadn’t read. Before we go on, let me just say that the 800s are a weird category, because they’re not entirely nonfiction. Some are essays, but most of the section is classic literature and plays. Barrel Fever is a weird pick too because it’s actually short stories, plus a few autobiographical pieces that read like stories. But it’s got an 800 number so it counts!
Since I can’t list interesting factoids like with my previous Dewey posts, I’ll share some of my favorite funny lines.
In “Music for Lovers,” a father tries to save money by performing medical procedures at home…
If you can sew a button on a shirt, you can give someone stitches. Just make sure to use a clean, sharp needle and some strong thread. I recommend unwaxed dental floss. Do not, under any circumstances, use yarn.
When his daughter, Dawn, breaks her ankles falling off a roof, the father casts them himself, which end up being too tight…
Eventually I was forced to carry her to the hospital, where some power-hungry surgeon decided that he needed to amputate both her feet. I am still convinced that her feet were that color not because of gangrene but because they were dirty.
In “The Last You’ll Hear from Me,” a woman leaves a letter to be read aloud by her friend Eileen at her funeral, exposing the tryst between her boyfriend and his mistress. She encourages the guests to avenge her heartbreak in – what else? – a good old-fashioned stoning…
Hurt them the way they hurt me! Kill them! … (Eileen, I’m going to allow a few minutes here because it might take a while for certain people to get into the swing of it. Pop in the cassette marked “Stoning” and wait until both Randy and Annette are lifeless.)
In “Firestone,” a gas station employee finds a baby floating in a toilet and calls the police…
The moments passed like hours and, in my impatience I reached into the toilet and pulled the baby shape out, thinking it might still be alive, praying I might save it. Thank God I was mistaken. It was not a baby after all. (But it certainly was big enough!)
In “Jamboree,” a character named Marty isn’t too bright…
“I can tell you’re the daddy because he’s got your eyes!” a nurse made the mistake of saying to him.
Marty waited until she had taken the baby away before calling the nurse a bitch and repeating, “No I’VE got my eyes. ME – I have the both of them.” He pointed to his face and accidentally stuck his thumb into his left eye.
In the titular story, “Barrel Fever,” a mother bemoans the gifts her daughter gives her…
A poncho. Who does she think I am that I might want a poncho? I’ve written her back saying I’m sure it will come in handy the next time I mount my burro for the three-day journey over the mountains to the neighboring village.
And in the final piece of the book, “SantaLand Diaries,” Sedaris recounts his stint as a Christmas mall elf:
Interpreters for the deaf came and taught us to sign “MERRY CHRISTMAS! I AM SANTA’S HELPER.” … My sister Amy lives above a deaf girl and has learned quite a bit of sign language. She taught some to me and so now I am able to say, “SANTA HAS A TUMOR IN HIS HEAD THE SIZE OF AN OLIVE. MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY TOMORROW BUT I DON’T THINK SO.”
Hope you enjoyed! Since we’re on the topic of comedy, who are your favorite funny authors? I love humorous books so feel free to recommend!