Let’s DEWEY This! – the 800s (plus that time I embarrassed myself in front of David Sedaris)


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.


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!


34 thoughts on “Let’s DEWEY This! – the 800s (plus that time I embarrassed myself in front of David Sedaris)

  1. I loooove David Sedaris. The live reading of his that I went to was the only time I have ever sat in the front row for any celebrity-type event. He looked entirely different (far less nerdy) than I had envisioned from his voice, so I can totally understand the sandwich mix-up. I first heard him on NPR’s This American Life, when he read The SantaLand Diaries. I was Christmas shopping and, unable to pull myself away from the radio, sat in the mall parking lot listening for the whole hour. Just another goofy fan girl, I guess. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So, one time, I went to an author/illustrator’s book signing, determined to tell him that I am “a little bit in love with him.” This was in France, so I rehearsed how I would say it and everything. I got to the bookstore and everyone was standing in line behind a table to have books signed, so I thought, Oh! That must be him! He’s early! And I even checked with the guy in front of me that it was him.

    I get to the front of the line, hand over my book, and recite my little speech about how I’m in love with him. The guy takes the book from my hands, looks at it, pauses, and then tells me I’ve got the wrong guy. He was just some dude who’d worked on the Welsh translation of Tintin, or something. The author I wanted would be doing his signing upstairs later. I thanked him, died of mortification, came back to life, and then went upstairs to wait on the author I was actually in love with.

    …Yeah. That happened.

    My favorite funny authors are Bill Bryson, Helen Fielding, and Mhairi McFarlane. Stephen Colbert’s books are also hilarious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! Oh my god, that is an amazing story. That could go right in a movie or a sitcom. I’m sure in the moment it felt horrible though. At least you got a great anecdote out of it to compensate for the pain. 🙂

      I’ve been meaning to try Bill Bryson. Helen Fielding is of course fantastic. I haven’t heard of Mhairi McFarlane, what’s she like? I can’t believe I haven’t recommended this book to you already… Have you read “Him Her Him Again The End of Him” by Patricia Marx? I’ve read it twice and both times I laughed obnoxiously out loud through the whole thing. I think it’d be up your alley.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah. It was definitely a surreal level of embarrassment. I think I’d gotten so used to feeling embarrassed by that point in my study abroad year as “the weird foreign kid no one talks to” that it almost didn’t even register as anything other than a simple mistake. Like, “Oh well, time to go profess my love to the right person now. Better go upstairs.” There was no other way to cope than in a businesslike fashion, haha.

        I think you’ll love Bill Bryson. A Walk in the Woods is as close as you get to a “classic” travel narrative. Mhairi McFarlane writes romantic comedies that make me lol constantly. Her characters are always really rich and wonderful and relatable, and she veers away from a lot of the chick lit cliches (IMHO). And thanks so much for the Patricia Marx recommendation! I’m always on the lookout for funny books.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, businesslike seems like a good way to go about it. Who was the author that you were in love with btw?

        A Walk in the Woods is exactly the book I was planning to try by him. I adore mountains and wilderness. McFarlane sounds good, and oh – I just looked at the Goodreads page for Him Her Him Again and turns out you’ve already got it on your to-read! Haha. Guess I was right about your taste!


      • (There’s no “reply” button under your last comment, so I had to click “reply” to a previous one… hopefully this response lands in the right place below the thread?)

        His name is Tomi Ungerer. He’s done tons of stuff — my favorites are the children’s books he wrote and illustrated. He has this really subversive and sometimes dark sense of humor, and he’s also known for his political satire. There’s a museum dedicated to him in Strasbourg (where I studied) — a must if you wind up there in your travels.

        I’m about to listen to the audiobook version of A Walk in the Woods on a road trip over the next couple of weeks… I can’t wait! I loved it the first time around and am hoping it will put me in the nice New England-y mood I’m going for — and part of the book is set there, so, bonus. 🙂

        And yes — I already had Him Her Him Again on my TBR! Maybe you did mention it to me before, or I just came across it somehow? Anyway, I’m excited about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ooh wow! We’re in Vermont today and tomorrow (Burlington), then New Hampshire for a few days (let me know if you have any recommendations for food/activities in the White Mountains area!), then coastal Maine, then Boston/Concord, and the Berkshires last. We’re trying to fit in as much as possible so we can tick “New England” off the list but there’s SO much to do!

        I haven’t had a chance to reply to your Goodreads message but will get to it soon!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I lived in the White Mountains area! My town was an itsy bitsy town called Whitefield, between Littleton and Lancaster. The Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park is a NH favorite, if it’s not on your list already. Also there *apparently* is a “Library Restaurant” in Portsmouth? I only just found out about it but sounds awesome! If you go, please let me know what you think!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much for suggesting the Flume Gorge! We had Franconia Notch on the list but weren’t sure of which trail to take, so you made our decision easy. 🙂 We ate at a pancake place nearby (Polly’s, I think?) that you’re probably familiar with if you’re from that area…

        Someone was just recommending that we stop in Portsmouth on our way down the coast. Hopefully we’ll have time to stop at the library restaurant!

        Liked by 1 person

      • We got back Saturday. We didn’t have time for the Library Restaurant, unfortunately, but I saw pictures on their website and it looks amazing. Lots of people recommended Portsmouth to us, so if we make it back to the area we’ll make a point of Library-ing too!


  3. That is a wonderful David Sedaris story! I was unknowingly in a room with a minor celebrity once. My friend pointed it out and I looked over to the celebrity…right as he took a too-big bite out of his sandwich and looked up at me with food hanging out of his mouth. Needless to say it was awkward and I did not go talk to him.

    Best of luck on your Dewey decimal adventure! Looking forward to next week’s blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post – had no idea who David Sedaris was until I read this and I think that’s going to have to change! Love the quotes you’ve dropped in – very, very funny stuff.

    The two writers that make me laugh most consistently are Carl Hiaasen and Robert Rankin (anyone who can title a book The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse is worth a go!)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love everything Sedaris, with the exception of “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk,” and I too once made an awkward ass of myself at a live performance. Not enough to make it into a future book, but enough to kick myself every time I remember it. Hard.

    Liked by 1 person

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