Eugene’s Hult Center was fortunate enough to host American satirical author and humorist David Sedaris on Thursday, Nov. 20. Sedaris has published a number of best-selling works, from short story collections to articles for The New Yorker and is an active contributor for NPR’s This American Life. Having sold millions of copies of his books and toured internationally over the years, his talent speaks for itself. Yet, there is more that can be taken away from a live recital of his work; a greater sense of sincerity becomes evident.
Sedaris was slightly late to his performance at the Hult Center and was in a somewhat scattered condition. He buttoned up the top of his shirt and claimed, “I’m just happy to be alive” after having apparently just arrived in Eugene from Walla Walla, Washington, the most recent stop in his tour. And without much else to note on the matter, he quickly began reading a number of his essays, all of which were derived from different published works of his. Sedaris focused on a number of mundane topics from diets to beach houses, within which he impressively implemented mocking twists that livened up each story.
A number of theories that Sedaris has conjured up over the years were some of the first things that were presented to the audience. This included his theory that married couples who honeymoon in cold places are bound to be happier than those who honeymoon in warmer places. He went on to explain that somewhere like Alaska would clearly be a mutually agreed upon endeavor of sorts, whereas Hawaii offers nothing but sex with bad tan lines.
Sedaris predominantly played off humorous events and personality types derived from his personal life; from his own family members, his partner and individuals he encounters in everyday life. In a moment of self-deprecation, Sedaris went off on a tangent regarding how several reporters have described him in both ways he wouldn’t have guessed and also predictably drawing attention to his height of 5 foot 5 inches. In response to these journalists’ descriptions of his stature, he wittily said, “And then I thought, it’s not as if I sleep in a teacup.”
Continuing with the conversation about how journalists have portrayed him over the years, he discussed how they have focused excessively on his sexual orientation and partnership with Huge Hamrick. Again, the crowd was delighted by his bending of the situation into one where he is on top. “I don’t think of (my sexual orientation) as the cornerstone of what I am,” Sedaris said. “Given all my options, I think I prefer the rich guy.”
The one bone I have to pick actually is no fault of Sedaris’, but I feel obligated to give it short mention nonetheless. The Hult Center attempted to utilize a teleprompter in order for audience members seated in the balcony to be able to follow along. However, it turned out to be more of an annoyance than a help. Not only was the written form far behind from Sedaris’ dialogue in the present, but it often misquoted him as well. A young woman seated behind me in the balcony area commented, “This thing is so damn distracting,” referring to the horrid teleprompter. We’ll leave it at that.
The sincerity isn’t limited to Sedaris’ actual writing, but constantly reveals itself in his speech; as an inherent quality of his personality. This became quite clear when he stopped in the middle of his recital of a work to promote “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett as a book that he himself read and found to be of particular interest to aspiring writers.
“I would buy this book before I buy anything of mine,” he says, honestly. Moreover, Sedaris not only stuck around to sign books and answer questions one-on-one with those who attended his performance, but took time on stage to answer audience questions about his work, creative process and future plans.
The first day of Sedaris’ tour was Oct. 6 and apparently his first day off will be Nov. 21, a day after his performance in Eugene. Needless to say, he has more touring to do and has simply thrown around ideas for future works, but nothing is set in stone for the time being.