BOOKS | David Sedaris shows his animal side at the State Theatre


“I am experimenting with the sweater vest,” announced David Sedaris after he thanked the audience at the State Theatre for coming on Thursday night. Indeed, he was wearing one, and he quickly set the mood for the evening as the audience rippled with laughter. (For the record, he looked very much like an interesting and dynamic author, not like Mr. Rogers.)

Sedaris is on tour after publishing a new collection of stories: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, out last month. The stories are all animal-related; the main characters, Sedaris explained, were animals and he focused on depicting their lives as realistically as though they were human lives. Sedaris began first with a story called “The Faithful Setter,” about a married dog couple and the trials and tribulations of their relatively comfortable suburban life. It was a story that featured obvious parallels to an otherwise human suburban life, and it’s in that way that Sedaris is completely brilliant: of course he would use animals to send a message about our behavior.

The second reading was from the same book, but it was not actually Sedaris reading it. Instead, he played a recording by Elaine Stritch, from the audio book version. The story was called The Motherless Bear. Sedaris had this to say about the vocalist by way of introduction to the clip: “If you don’t know who Elaine Stritch is, you’re not a homosexual. I don’t care if you’re a guy and you’ve had a dick in your ass, you’re not a homosexual.”

The audience was roaring with laughter throughout the evening, but particularly when Sedaris, who appears so unassuming save for the twinge of a smirk on his face, was even remotely vulgar. He continued: “I’m going to play you something of Elaine Strich and I’m not sure if I’m doing it for you or for myself. I just can’t get over the fact that Elaine Stritch read something that I wrote—even to herself, on a bus.”

It is just as typical that Sedaris is so remarkably, and perhaps pointedly, self-deprecating. Among his other readings, Sedaris included a selection of excerpts from his diary—granting the audience a glimpse into the author’s daily life, which reads just as funnily and cleverly as his stories about setters and bears.

Sedaris also offered a book recommendation: Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower. He read a brief excerpt from the book, remarking on brilliant sentence structure and the rough violence, finally telling the audience to “read this. Read this now.”

Sedaris closed the evening by asking members of the audience if they had any questions for him. A few shouted things out—everything from the interesting (“Are you working on anything with your sister?”) to the weird (“What’s your favorite font?”). All in all, an outstandingly entertaining evening.

His favorite font, by the way, “starts with a C.”