Whenever people tell me I have a great job because “you get paid for watching movies,” I always correct them — I don’t get paid for watching anything; I get paid for writing about it afterwards.
Now, wanna talk about great jobs, you’re talkin’ David Sedaris. Here’s a guy who turns his daily life into a career. He writes pieces for erudite magazines like the New Yorker, anthologizes them, then gets paid for standing in front of 2,000 adoring fans reading them aloud. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to publish them: At last night’s appearance at the Winspear as part of the DMA’s Arts & Letters Live series, Sedaris spent 20 minutes reading from his diary. Now that’s a plum job.
Of course, it helps that Sedaris’ diary entries are more cogent, funny and insightful than most anything else you’d read in edited periodicals. His style is starchy and prim, but his subject matter rangy — he can recount shopping in an antique store with the same high-mindedness of portraying a Santaland elf at Macy’s. Yes, the reading part is easy; it’s the genius it took to get there that’s hard to come by.
And the appreciative sellout crowd at his hour-plus-long reading (two 20 minute essays — one brand new, one in his just-published collection Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls — a few poems, diary entries and a monologue, followed by a Q&A) seemed satisfied by his wit. More than satisfied, really: Nourished.
There’s true therapeutic value in a David Sedaris reading. His stories — about life with his partner Hugh, both near their home in Sussex, England, and on the road to Japan, China, German, Sweden and other assorted ports-of-call — are familiar yet strange, and his befuddled persona belies a savviness. He joked about not learning the aggressiveness to be a driver early enough, but you know he realizes not driving has professional benefits; there are stories all around him.
His formality contrasts to a smart crassness, especially in one story about a clueless, right-wing mom duped by her gay son into wearing a dunce cap that, he insisted, did not say she was an “ASSHOLE” but was an acronym for her politics: Another Savvy Senior Hoping Obama Loses Everything.
It’s almost like he read our diaries.