David Sedaris and My Rehabilitation
Reading David Sedaris, besides making me laugh out loud repeatedly and at length, causes me to feel better about myself. For instance, it makes me feel less stupid for having slipped on ice and broken my arm, less of a klutz slowly picking away at a keyboard with my left hand, and less of an irresponsible dog owner now that Luna’s walks and outdoor activities have all been taken over by my brilliant and kind neighbor, Harley. The absurdist, confessional parodies and embarrassing vignettes entailed in Sedaris’ fact-based satires make it clear that we are all, occasionally at least, and in a myriad of idiosyncratic ways, downright stupid and absurd. I can forgive myself.
Our vanities, snobberies and pretensions are the cause for most of the hilarity. And we all got ’em, this author not least of all. Sedaris’ are recounted in an ignominious streaming narration of his own and others’ normatively bizarre, quotidian peccadillos, the humiliations of which he has, by his own admission, consciously and self-reflectively brewed and steeped and wallowed in — sometimes for years. He relishes the ironies and oddities and surprises, and glories in their artful retelling. His chosen writing form is a specially crafted species of the personal essay, in which his own hand, like his own self, is cunningly effaced. Despite his signature style of wit masquerading as scathing, even cruel, in fact it resolves as kind. Accepting. Rueful perhaps, but declarative of kinship. Radically inclusive.
Sedaris is a new obsession for me. I am coming late into the fold of his manifold fans and admirers, who are legion. My friend Paul keeps me well supplied with the author’s anthologies of short essays. He has the lot, I think. Paul has functioned as my main-man insofar as reading material for a long time, but never with such perfectly plotted selections as now, when Sedaris actually substitutes for opioid pain relief. I can almost ‘see’ the little bone cells re-knitting themselves around the new metal plate and six pins holding my wrist together while I lie with my arm elevated, laughing unrestrainedly.