And now for something completely different – David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002. For those of you unfamiliar with his work (are there any of you out there), David Sedaris is a humorous essayist raised in North Carolina and currently living in England with his longtime partner Hugh. He became famous in the 90s with autobiographical essay collections like Barrel Fever and Naked, and continues to put out new books every few years. Apparently he has been keeping a diary since 1977 and after coming across his old journals, decided to edit them into a book.
If you’re at all a fan of Sedaris, then you’ll enjoy this collection of diary entries. It has been a really long time since I read some of his earlier work, so the beginning of this volume of diary entries was almost like a refresher course. He discusses his summers picking apples in the Midwest, his family, and his struggles to make ends meet in Chicago and beyond. I definitely laughed out loud throughout the book. I’ve always enjoyed reading Sedaris not only because he is incredibly witty and has such an appreciation for the bizarre, but also because I spent many years in Raleigh, NC, and currently live nearby in what non-natives call “Raleigh-Durham,” probably because of the airport. Any time he mentions his evenings spent at the IHOP on Hillsborough St, I can easily picture it as it’s the same IHOP I spent some less-than-sober evenings at as an NC State student in the late 90s. We would never have crossed paths of course but it’s so cool to read about an apartment on Ashe Avenue and realize “I know where that is, I’ve been on that street!” Obviously if you grew up in a more populated area this is no big deal. But as it is Raleigh is rarely famous for anything aside from appallingly bad constitutional violations by our own state government, so reading about our neighborhoods in a book is a pleasant alternative.
The diary entries are often short, and since Sedaris edited this together, things are left out that might provide context. He often refers to people by first name only so I often had to just ignore a person’s name and move on without bothering to investigate. Sedaris has (had, one sister committed suicide after 2002 when the diaries stop) five siblings and they’re all quirky and hilarious, at least as represented by their brother. His sister Amy is also famous; she has written a few humourous books and starred in several TV shows and movies. You probably know her as Jerri Blank if you’re my age, or perhaps as the sad weirdo friend of Jane Krakowski on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I wasn’t really aware how close David and Amy were and continue to be, so that was interesting to read about. Some of his entries seemed familiar and must have been the basis for some of his essays over the years. There are a few entries about his care of spiders in he and Hugh’s Normandy home that I know seemed familiar.
I highly recommend this to fans of Sedaris, or of funny writing in general. If you don’t like his sense of humor, I would skip this one.