David Sedaris, the celebrated humorist who for a quarter century has been turning his life into acclaimed stories, came to the Uptown Theatre Friday night to read new installments.
The theater was filled with Sedaris fans familiar with his bestselling collections including “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” and “When You Are Engulfed in Flames.” Many of the essays first appeared in The New Yorker or debuted in radio readings.
Sedaris is an engaging figure. His persona evokes Woody Allen — a man with quirky, irreverent observations about life. But Sedaris is a more personal storyteller. He breaks taboos about what’s a proper disclosure when dissecting his parents and siblings. He puts the “fun” in dysfunction.
Sedaris held forth behind a high lectern for nearly two hours, reading four selections from a book not yet published, sampled a story by Ottessa Moshfegh, a short story writer he admires, and took questions from the audience.
In “Hustler,” Sedaris talked about the curious, unintentional ways that pornography and sex devices have entered his life unexpectedly, starting with a hidden stash of spanking magazines found in the English woods.
In “The Silent Treatment,” Sedaris recounted in scenes both sentimental and comedic, his fraught relationship with his father. Try as they might for rapport, “we were like a pair of trapeze artists and missing every time,” he said.
In “And While You’re Up There, Check on My Prostate,” Sedaris described the flamboyant curses that motorists in various cultures heap on other motorists who have incurred their wrath. In the Netherlands, drivers sometimes scream “cancer whore” at their antagonist. In Bulgaria, “may you build your house with your kidney stones.”
The packed house generously rewarded Sedaris with its laughter. A few admirers, such as the woman sitting behind this reviewer, convulsed loudly to the point of snorting, from start to finish.
What to say about the tyranny of the unrestrained cackler? Most certainly she got her money’s worth, but adjacent patrons suffered.
To fully appreciate Sedaris, who now lives in England, it’s probably helpful believing that while his stories have solid ties to reality, his unfettered imagination adds to the punch.
What’s true, what’s invention and where’s the line? Some stories once labeled “nonfiction” early in Sedaris’ career are now classified as “fiction.” Even so, their punch comes from their insights into our shared human nature.
Sedaris can stagger you with his personal disclosures. You may cringe, but you also recognize a kindred spirit.