Wednesday night, Society for the Performing Arts once again brought author and humorist David Sedaris to town. And once again, Jones Hall was filled with Houstonians paying to see a casually-dressed man, alone on stage, reading a bunch of essays and entries from his diary.
I was there too, loving every minute of it, because David Sedaris takes the minutia and annoyances of daily life and human interaction and makes them both utterly depressing and hilarious.
His upcoming book Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is a departure from his previous collections of essays, but the audience was quite willing to get a peek in the form of two stories. Sedaris said the book was originally going to be defined as fables, “but fables have morals.” The first story, “Mouse and Snake,” tells how far a loving mouse is willing to go in order to nurture her “reptile companion.” The second story, “Faithful Setter,” allowed us a view into the troubled marriage between two Irish Setters. While these stories sounded like contemporary fables, they also harken back to the way classic fairy and folk tales were told before they were cleaned up for movie animation. Those tales could be dark, horrid and extremely funny.
Sedaris also read from an untitled essay on airports he is currently writing and then observations from his diary. The biggest laugh of the night came during the airport essay in which he readily admits he is petty and judgmental. Yes he is, in the best possible way.
Part of the fun of a David Sedaris reading is knowing he’s using the audience to help him edit his essays, to see what works and what gets the most laughs, before they appear in The New Yorker or Esquire.
After the reading and Q&A, my friends and I stayed to get our books signed. The signing line tends to move slow for Sedaris fans because he wants to talk to each person and doodle a picture in their books. For my little gang, my friend Karen received a requested drawing of Jesus, while David got an octopus. So much better than a general greeting, a hedgehog now resides on the title page of my copy of When You Are Engulfed in Flames.