Althouse | category: David Sedaris



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"I think that children are like animals that don't have any natural predators left and they're just not afraid of anything...."

"I was in London not long ago and there were these boys breaking the branches off a tree and this woman said, 'You boys stop doing that,' and they said, 'You can't talk to us,' and they were right. You know what I mean? What she was doing was bullying, you know, according to the law, and they knew it."

Said David Sedaris, in conversation with Bill Maher.

Maher added: "That's a sea change from when we were kids when... not only could your parent hit you, the neighbor could hit you.... It was like it takes a village — that was the mentality like any adult could — maybe that's going a little too far — but — I don't know — I think that's better than what we have now.... I mean, I I don't have children, you don't have children and some people say to me, you know, like, 'How do you know?' I'm sentient!..."

Sedaris: "I'm always surprised I meet a teenager and I say... you have to have an after-school job, and the parent, always: "This is Atticus's time to be Atticus.'"

ADDED: The first commenter (Tank) says, "No shorts tag?" Sorry, I'd meant to do the "men in shorts" tag and also to write a little something about this particular and unusual wearing of shorts.

First, I love David Sedaris and will, whenever I can, defer to his judgment. Let David be David.

Second, I know, because I read all his books — over and over again — that he cares a lot about fashion and avidly shops in unusual places, and plays with really odd things, and seems to embrace some clown elements. Can you see the shoes in that video? They're black, but otherwise they are clown shoes — very expensive ones too, I would guess. I'm interested in his selections. It's part of the show.

Third, I know that he regards his calves as his best feature, and ordinary pants deprive you of the chance to show off your calves.

Fourth, he's wearing knee socks with knee length shorts, an effort at elegance. The men-in-shorts looks that I've been disapproving of for the last 20 years are, basically, play clothes, worn without regard for whether you look good or even like an adult, as opposed to an enlarged child.

"I always thought when you got to be a certain age, you’d give anything to be younger. But I am so excited to be dead in, like, 20 years. Because there’s not much more of this I can take."

Said David Sedaris — after he was asked about A.I. taking over the jobs of writers — quoted in "Could the Next Great Author Be a Robot? We Asked (Human) Writers. At the PEN America Literary Awards, David Sedaris, Judith Thurman and others discussed the role A.I. could play in literature" (NYT).

When you're young, you want there to be a lot of space between now and where you're picturing your death day. It's never distant enough — and, of course, it's always potentially today — and you cling to a vague fantasy of immortality. But when you are old, you continually notice benefits in the short time line: These problems are not mine to solve. I do not exist much further out on this trajectory.

If you are young, you should know that old people are mostly keeping this secret. We don't want to demoralize you as you shoulder the burdens of life, and we don't want to seem as though we don't care. 

Look how J.K. Rowling got lambasted 2 weeks ago when she said "I do not walk around my house, thinking about my legacy. You know, what a pompous way to live your life walking around thinking, 'What will my legacy be?' Whatever, I’ll be dead. I care about now. I care about the living."

She was saying that she cared about the living and didn't worry about herself or the ghost of a self that would remain out there in the future. Yet that curt "Whatever, I’ll be dead" really hit younger people.

I have 7 TikToks selected for you tonight, and I think they kind of go together. In any event, some people love them!

1. The painted face.

2. Elizabeth Taylor on "What's My Line?"

3. The child is perhaps outraged not to be asked to join in.

4. When you, an audiobook user, order a used David Sedaris book so you'll have something for him to sign, and the book that's sent is one that David Sedaris has already signed.

5. The videos David Wain doesn't remember making but obviously did make, in the middle of a sleeping-pill-induced night's sleep.

6. It's Moby's birthday, and he's playing "Happy Birthday" in 5 genres.

7. Copying runway fashion with materials you find around the house.

"Tonight, he perfectly panfried two veal chops the size of snowshoes and served them with risotto and pre-natal zucchini."

"Sage was used, and, as is his habit, he took great care spooning the life-giving drippings onto the meat. Like always, we ate at the table, which was set and had candles on it.... We usually sit down for dinner between 9:30 and ten. I like to eat until I hate myself.... I once ate an entire 12-ounce can [of Aunt Ruby’s peanuts] in one sitting, hoping I’d get eternally sick of them, the way I did with Goldfish crackers when I was 6. No such luck, though. Aunt Ruby’s peanuts are my weakness. I cannot resist them, and so I have to do things like eat salads and fish and diet Jell-O in order to fit them into my life. I have to walk a minimum of 15 miles a day and do these sad little exercises all morning otherwise I would be massively overweight, which is something I like on other people, just not on myself."

From "David Sedaris Eats Until He Hates Himself/'Too much lunch puts me in a stupor, but at night, I really take the gloves off'" by David Sedaris (Grub Street).

I love David Sedaris. I even bought Aunt Ruby's peanuts in the middle of reading the article. Of course, I'm reading his new book — that is, I'm listening to the audiobook for the 4th time. Chapter 9 — "Highfalutin" — was recorded at the show he did here in Madison, so I am personally, minusculely, present in the recording.

Ah! It's finally here: "Yelp Reviews of Xmas" by David Sedaris.

I heard this story read aloud when Sedaris did his show here in Madison 2 weeks ago. He said it would be in The New Yorker "next week," so I've been looking and looking. Finally! I love the whole thing, but the part I've been wanting to quote is beyond humor and startlingly dark.

Oh! The part I've been waiting to tell you about is not in the short bit that The New Yorker published. It was about abortion. It's hard to explain how a harsh view of abortion could have fit into the comical idea of Yelp reviews of Christmas, but let me try. 

The fictional Yelp reviewer criticized Christmas for causing the abortion clinic to be closed and, from there, manifested her outrageously self-centered character. She wanted the abortion for Christmas so she could — am I remembering this correctly?! — give it as a present to her ex. 

It was way over the top, to the point where it would upset pro-abortion readers, because it wasn't just the usual refraining from discussing what is happening to the child as murder. The woman reveled in murdering the child. I thought: I need to see this in print. 

From the version of the story that made it into The New Yorker, there's a 1-star review: "I like Christmas, except it has too many nuts in it and I’m allergic. There are nuts in the cookies—not all, but some—and even in the songs! I don’t think this is fair to people such as myself. Christmas needs to be more inclusive." 

The Overture Center's "Evening With David Sedaris," originally slated for April 27, 2020, finally took place last night.

I adore David Sedaris — and listen to his audiobooks probably more than anyone — so I'd bought 2 tickets, for me and Meade. But when the rescheduled date finally came around, there was some new fine print: "All who enter building must wear a face mask and show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test with a photo ID." 

It's stuffy inside that mask, and it's harder to laugh out loud. Some of the laughing in an audience is social. You want to be seen to be laughing, enjoying yourself, but if your mouth isn't seen, you don't have to bother with that. You can just laugh in your head, the way you do when you're traipsing around the city, listening to David Sedaris through headphones.

But it was the second part of that fine print that was truly irksome, and that caused the seat next to me to be empty. I was willing to show my papers — photo ID and vaccination card — but Meade was not. We went up to the gate together. I thought we might both make it through, but the gatekeepers performed the duty imposed on them, and Meade stayed behind. We reunited after the show. 

Sedaris did a Q&A with the audience at the end, but I didn't have the nerve to raise this issue with him. He did at one point talk about how he's been traveling since September and has seen 60 different American cities on this tour. Things are different in different places. Milwaukee, he said, was completely open. No masks. But he didn't say what he thought of the sea of masked faces he had to look at here in Madison. He did say — more generally about Covid — that 700,000 Americans had died, and — mournful pause — he didn't get to pick any of them.

About Madison, he said he'd walked along the shore of Lake Mendota and loved the sound of the ice clinking against the shoreline. Here's a video I made on December 20, 2014, recording that sound:

Sedaris said he'd like it if that sound replaced all the Christmas music.

Speaking of delicate smallness replacing vigorous bigness, I loved seeing the diminutive author alone on a stage designed to accommodate operas and Broadway shows. He did nothing to make the show any bigger than an author reading from papers — other than that one point when he stepped out from behind the lectern to display his unusual outfit. It looked like he had an extra jacket or 2 tied around his waist under the jacket he was wearing as a jacket but was really just one multi-layered jacket, all sewn together. He opened the jacket to display his culottes. It seemed like something from a very small-scale circus, an elegant sad-clown costume. Again, one very small man in the spotlight on a huge, dark stage.

The material he read had a lot about his father, who recently died at the age of 98. Sedaris came right out and said he was happy his father had died, and that — except for the last year of his life — his father was always mean. He endured his father's meanness, suffering inside for decades, but eventually got to the point where he found this big audience to laugh and confirm his perceptions of his father. I was glad to help him alleviate the lifelong pain, even if my smiling mouth could not be seen and my dear husband was stranded in the lobby.

"When gay men and lesbians come up, I say, 'Where do you stand on the word "queer"?' The young people are like, 'I love it.' It’s their word. I hate it."

"I read an interview with this woman, and she identifies as queer because she’s tall. People who identify as queer because they feel 'other'? Everybody does at some point in their life. It’s just the rebranding. No one asked me about it. There was not a vote. So now I identify as a straight man. Whatever you identify as, people have to respect that, right? I identify as a straight man because the word 'straight' doesn’t change. I just want some stability.... I’d rather say I’m homosexual than queer. It’s completely strictly generational. That’s what people my age were called, you know? But that’s not the part of it that bothers me. It’s just the rebranding. That’s why now I’m a straight man. And you know what?... I’m going to be a really good spokesperson for straight men too. We’ve been maligned for too long, and we’ve had it. We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore."

That interview is so full of quotable stuff, it's hard for me to stop, but I'll stop there.

"British Airways has advised pilots and cabin crew not to refer to passengers as 'ladies and gentlemen' in onboard announcements as the carrier celebrates the 'diversity and inclusion' of its customers...."

The Telegraph reports today.

That caught my eye because I was just reading  a diary entry from 2017 in David Sedaris's new "Carnival of Snackery" about the decision to get rid of "Ladies and gentlemen" in announcements on the London Underground:

There’s something sad about this to me. It’s like a casual Friday for language, only it’s not just on Friday. I rather liked being thought of as a gentleman. Yes, I’d think whenever I heard it, I believe I’m up for this

The new announcements, he writes, would begin “Hello, everyone.”  

You know, it's funny that "Ladies and gentlemen" lasted as long as it did. Even 60 years ago, it sounded old fashioned. It was corny announcer-talk. It seemed to imagine an audience that was much more dressed up and proper than the people who'd actually shown up. It added some humorous grandeur or an edge of hucksterism. And that was long before any complicated gender critique bubbled up in the culture. 

ADDED: Milton Berle used to say "Ladies and germs" as a joke.

"What would be the point of hedonism?" — the automatic transcription mistranscribes. He said "heganism.""I think that children are like animals that don't have any natural predators left and they're just not afraid of anything...."The Overture Center's "Evening With David Sedaris," originally slated for April 27, 2020, finally took place last night.

Report "Althouse"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?