By Jeff Walsh
I've been a fan of David Sedaris for years, to the point where many of his stories have become touchstones in my life.
There are people in my life who are more highly valued because I can say "You can't kill the rooster" at an appropriate moment, and nothing more needs to be said. Living in San Francisco, where food is a way of life, Sedaris's "Today's Special" remains my favorite, where the often-beleaguered Sedaris suffers through gourmet cuisine featuring entrees served with a "medley of suffocated peaches" or "mummified lychee nuts."
His latest book, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames," continues the journey millions of readers have taken into his life and features 22 of his humorous essays. It is currently the number one book on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover nonfiction. The essays jump decades and moods, with Sedaris as the only constant. There are moments that are touching, uncomfortable, and hilarious, with the largest piece in the book being Sedaris's tale of quitting smoking (which he did solely because his favorite hotels all went non smoking).
Already, my favorite moment in the book is Sedaris having an uncomfortable encounter with a taxi driver taking him from LaGuardia to the West Village in "Town and Country." During the ride, the cab driver starts talking incessantly about sex and finally determines that Sedaris is gay, taunting him non-stop with "Do you like the dick, David?"
I read half of the book and had Sedaris read the other half to me (on audio book, not in person), and I have to say there is a lot of benefit to hearing him read his own work. At this point, I hear his voice when I read the book anyway, but his delivery and characters are really getting better and better.
I met Sedaris for an interview two and a half hours before he was scheduled to do a reading at Books, Inc. in San Francisco. We did the interview in the manager's office while he signed stock for the store to sell after he leaves town. Nearly 75 people were already lined up outside waiting to attend his event that night, and the reading would be completely sold out without question.
The interview was pretty breezy and fun, and flowed pretty well. Given the fact that Sedaris is a known diary keeper, who has gotten famous turning those diaries into humorous essays, I thought that was a good place for us to start our interview, seeing that this is a site largely founded on people writing about their lives.
Here's what we said: