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Thursday, October 2, 2014

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David Sedaris to hold book signing at Literati

By Giancarlo Buonomo, Summer Managing Arts Editor
Published June 10, 2014

Hold onto your moleskins: David Sedaris is coming to town.

The famed essayist and comedian, and author of works such as “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” and his latest essay collection “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls,” will be appearing at Literati Bookstore Wednesday night.

Since he read his humorous essay “SantaLand Diaries,” about working as an elf at Macy’s, on NPR in 1992, Sedaris has become perhaps the preeminent humorist in America today, one whose essays, radio broadcasts and speaking events have earned him numerous fans.

Sedaris’ writing is unique in that he finds remarkable elements in very unremarkable situations. His stories aren’t about exotic adventure and intrigue, but rather mundane elements of his own life, from Halloween (“Us and Them”) to flying to Paris (“Journey into Night”). But because of his wit and tone (nebbishy but wise), he brings out the absurd humor and unexpected lessons of these stories.

Sedaris is a raconteur — he excels at telling stories, particularly funny ones, which has made him immensely popular as a public speaker.

“I find that if I consciously try to be funny it always seems forced,” Sedaris said in an e-mail exchange with The Michigan Daily. “Rather, I try to be entertaining. I think of how the story might sound out loud to an audience and I proceed accordingly.”

Sedaris often discusses transgressive subjects — one essay, “Full House,” recalls a game of strip poker in the sixth grade where a still-closeted David revels in witnessing the bare bodies of his male friends, one of whom he eventually convinces to sit on his lap. But even with his frank discussions of sexuality, drug use and cancer, he has such widespread appeal that his essays are taught in high schools. Sedaris himself is rather blasé about the whole matter.

“I’ve never thought of myself as particularly subversive,” he said. “If my essays are in English classes perhaps it has more to do with the writing than the topic. The New Yorker puts an odd stamp of approval on things.”

Tickets to the reading became available on June 3, to those who purchased a copy of Mr. Sedaris’ latest book and sold out within an hour. But the book signing is open to the public and will go on as long as there are eager fans in line

“From the sound of it, he’s the most accommodating human being on planet earth,” said John Ganiard, Events Coordinator at Literati Bookstore.

It’s no surprise that for his visit to Ann Arbor, Mr. Sedaris chose Literati. Since opening in April 2013, the East Washington store has become a cultural hot-spot, with its regular hosting of authors and open-mic nights.

“Since we opened, it’s been our mission to bring notable authors to our space, which is an intimate space, because we serve the community beyond just being a general bookstore,” Ganiard said.

Sedaris is popular with all ages, but high school and college students seem to respond particularly well to his writings, and they flock to readings like these with as much enthusiasm as if they were meeting a favorite musician or actor. Perhaps it is because Sedaris simply makes writing seem fun.

“Especially as a teenager, you think of writing as something you’re forced to do in school, and then watching someone do it, and making you laugh, your first thought is “I want to do that,” Ganiard said.

Sedaris doesn’t harbor any fantasies that his books will keep people, including teenagers, reading.

“Goodness no. If anything, it’s pornography that will keep people reading,” he said.

But he does have some advice for those, attending or not, who aspire to be writers.

“My advice is to write everyday (with a pen that’s shaped like a candy cane).”