Sometimes, I think I am Sedaris.
With prose so deceptively ordinary, stories so gosh darn relatable, and a sense of humor that I can’t help but relate to, I often dream of making this man my father. I just want to give him a hug or something because after reading so many of his pieces, I truly feel like I know Sedaris. And that’s when my identity crisis strikes (A man can dream).
I know I’m being sadly predictable by choosing to highlight David Sedaris. I know he is canon for contemporary readers everywhere. And he’s already in the hands of Stuff White People Like so it’s not like I’m going to try and claim originality.
But I did choose a lesser known piece by our literary god.
It’s called, “A Plague of Tics” and it comes from the collection of stories in “Naked.”
In a word, it’s an absurd piece of writing. And it hit me in my weak spot, made me fall head over heels in love, after only the first sentence.
“When the teacher asked if she might visit with my mother, I touched my nose eight times to the surface of my desk.”
What? Touching nose? Nose to desk? Of all things, why?
I hate to use the cliche, but it pulls you in. If there’s anything that is going to make me want to keep reading, it’s an absurd statement. Sedaris is a master of strange statements.
The rest of the piece describes a boy with a childhood obsession with touching things, counting things, and being an all around weird dude.
Remember how I said good creative nonfiction is honest? Even though Sedaris doesn’t outright say this is a story based on him, (or anybody special for that matter) it is honest (But wait until we get to Burroughs).
So who cares? The piece is quirky and it’s weird. Anyone can do that. What takes it to the next level?
Conversational readability. And for the record, I just made that term up. But it makes perfect sense. Reading Sedaris’ prose is like listening to a wonderful person speak. It sounds natural. And once you get a taste of his voice, you’ll hear it in everything he puts to paper.
This is the golden standard all creative nonfiction writers strive for. And one of the ways this is achieved is through fearless dialogue. Take a look at this example I’ve pulled from the essay.
“The sounds were delivered not in my voice but in that of a thimble-sized, temperamental diva clinging to the base of my uvula. “‘Eeeeeeee — ummmmmmmm — mmm — ahhhh — ahhh — meeeeeee.’” I was a host to these wailings…”
It’s modern. It’s unusual. But you know what? I think it works. He’s able to convey sound and the sight looks striking on the page. It’s not every day you see an author taking these kinds of modern risks. It’s why I love Sedaris. It’s why his prose is so distinct. He does his own thing, does it well, and makes it look so frustratingly easy.
Lyall, S. (2008, June 6). David sedaris talks funny: but is it real?. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/08/arts/08iht-sedaris.1.13528384.html
Sedaris, D. (Ed.). (1997). Naked. New York: Little Brown and Company.