David Sedaris: Interview

What about the success factor? Do you worry that people are going to read "I'm in my house in France... then I'm in my village in Normandy... " and people will just be like 'Fuck this guy. He's got so much money...'

Yeah, I do. But I don't know what to do about it. The way I look at it, too, is... someone said to me in an interview a few weeks ago, 'well, you were always the outsider, but what about now?' And I'm like, I'm sorry, but I'm 51 years old. I'm in my 50s. I'm allowed to have (mumbles) three houses (end mumble), you know?

Well, even when you say things like, I wanted to quit smoking, so I went to Japan...

I'm very lucky that way. I don't have anything holding me back.

But would the whole premise be off-putting for some is what I wondered.

I worried that it would be, and I don't read anything about myself. And I stay at the Four Seasons and I mentioned in one of the stories that someone sent a cake to my room and I'm afraid to call downstairs and ask for silverware, because I didn't order any food, so I wound up cutting the cake with my credit card. So, I'm at the Four Seasons, but I still have to be me. But I don't read reviews, interviews, anything.

And is it really true you've never sent an e-mail?

I sent my first e-mail on June first. And I have now sent seven e-mails.

Wow, so are you catching the bug?

I don't think so. I got an e-mail yesterday, it's one of the e-mails I received, and it's from a very well-respected writer. But if it were a letter... I mean, I'll save that e-mail anyway. I'll print it out But I mean, who's to know it's really from this person? I mean, I know it's from this person, but ...

So, do you have any advice for gay youth?

It's one of those questions that's so just so, so, so... I feel like I was born in a different century. When I'm signing books and I meet a teenager, if I meet a 16-year-old who's with his mom, and the mother says, 'Oh, my son is gay...' or I meet a 17-year-old who says 'This is my boyfriend, Michael.' When I grew up, that was impossible. I mean, impossible...

Yeah, I'm 39 now, but I came out at 23...

Yeah, and when I was young there were no books my gay people in the library in North Carolina. Maybe they had an Oscar Wilde book, but you'd have to guess who was homosexual. It wasn't like they had a section. There was no one on television who was gay. You felt like you were the only one.

And, to be in high school and to say, 'Oh, I'm gay...' you would be murdered, your parents would send you to a psychiatrist, to an institution. It's unbelievable to me how much has happened in my lifetime that way. So an experience today for a gay teenager is so fundamentally different than my experience.

And when I look at things at having to have a girlfriend in high school, because your parents are getting suspicious and saying 'Aren't you supposed to have a girlfriend?' So, you lie to her, you hurt her, and you use her. Your introduction to women is you're just manipulating and using them. And I think how great it would be not to have to do that. To be able to be yourself just right out of the gate.

I met somebody a few weeks ago and their adopted girl, who's like 7, said to them, 'I'm really supposed to be a boy, and I'd like to just be a boy for a while,' so now she dresses as a boy and goes to school as a boy... it's amazing to me. Amazing to me.

We have kids on the site that are 11...

Wow.

It used to be, they were 17, and you'd just be like, well, pretty soon you'll go to college, and get out of the house... but what do you tell an 11-year-old? In seven... YEARS you can go to college...

(laughs)

And in ten years, you can go to bars?!

(laughs)

So, what do you get out of an experience like tonight? Is it overwhelming?

Well, I started like three weeks ago. I'm just very conscious of, and I hope I can count this on one hand, the times someone has left the signing table feeling embarrassed or like they were dismissed. I was talking to someone a few weeks ago signing books, and it's true that they went on a bit too long, but somebody came and said (grabs my shoulder) 'Come on, he's got other books to sign...' and I had the person who did that sent away, because that's awful for the person who left, just awful.

I was actually one of the front people in your line when you did the Opera House last time. And I was at the front because I actually didn't see you that night. I was at Stephen King's event that ended earlier two doors down, but I brought your book with me in my backpack figuring the times might line up.

(laughs)

And then you came out, and we started talking about my novel, and you kept asking me questions, like what's the title? How does the story go? How far along are you? And I was thinking, David... there are like 1,500 people waiting behind me.

And the people behind you want you to hurry up, but they don't want to hurry up. My thinking is, if people will wait... I mean, if people don't want to wait, they can buy any of those books I just signed. But, I like it. I enjoy it. I almost feel that it makes me feel more exposed than anything how much I enjoy it. I feel like it's pathetic how much I enjoy attention. It really is.

(laughs)

(laughs) It's just pathetic. And when I go home from my tour, I'll be like, 'Hugh, look at me, my hands are in the air. Look, I'm over here! Look, Hugh, pay attention to me!' And it's going to take a while for me to come down.

So, Hugh is the grounding element in all of this?

Yeah, oh yeah. And he'll have to pick up the pieces when my tour is over. I'll go through a little withdrawal. But it's my reward for doing the working part of it. And I don't know what these people are doing here, I really don't (referring to the people lined up on the sidewalk two hours before his reading). I'm really grateful that they came, but...

Last time you were here, people were overflowing out every door out into the sidewalks.

But I honestly don't know why they're here.

(laughs)

(laughs) I don't! There are people that I would line up for...

So, who would you be out there in line waiting to see if they were reading here tonight?

Tobias Wolff, I would be in that line. Lorrie Moore, I would be in that line. Alan Bennett, I would be in that line. Oh gosh, any number of people, but not me.

Well, as soon as you think you're worth standing in line for, that'll probably be the last good book.

Maybe (laughs).

Comments

msquared's picture

Yay.

Kudos on catching a chat with David Sedaris! 'Twas interesting. I REALLY need to read some of his books, though...

“Never forget! The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

ACCgirl's picture

Sedaris

I've only read Me Talk Pretty One Day and I absolutely loved it. Been meaning to get back to this author and read more. He's such an intelligent man - a wonderful observer of human nature. :-)