DMA begins sale of David Sedaris tickets

SedarisYou know how arts organizations are always encouraging you to become a season subscriber for all the great benefits? Well, here’s a prime example of why it really does pay to do that.

Starting right now, the Dallas Museum of Art has on sale tickets to hear David Sedaris talk pretty via its Arts & Letters Live series at the Winspear Opera House on Nov. 11. Tickets don’t go on sale to the general public until Aug. 12. Now, you may think, “That’s only two weeks; the Winspear holds 2,300 people. I can wait.” But you’d probably be wrong. Or at least disadvantaged.

I know from experience how quickly Sedaris’ readings sell, and how hard tickets can be to come by. You really will benefit getting them early, and you can join for as little as $100 (which comes with free parking at the museum and is 80 percent tax deductible). Click the link or call 214-922-1247 to join and get the code. Tickets start at $25.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: David Sedaris at the Winspear

David-Sedaris-laughing-CREDIT-Anne-FishbeinWhenever 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.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kidd’s stuff

When Chip Kidd is the designer, you can judge a book by its cover

Kidd_headshot_Photo-credit-John-Madere

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK? | Dust jacket designer Chip Kidd, above, has created iconic covers for authors like David Sedaris and Haruki Murakami, below.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Chip Kidd takes the adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” seriously. On the other hand, part of his job is to get you to look at the book in the first place.

In the world of publishing, there is probably no more respected dust-jacket designer than Kidd. After more than 25 years at Alfred A. Knopf, Kidd’s reputation is almost as solid as the authors for who he has designed covers: Michael Crichton, David Sedaris, Cormac McCarthy, James Ellroy and Michael Ondaatje, to name a few; some writers even have it in their contracts that no one but Kidd may design their book jackets.

You might think such acclaim would give Kidd an ego bigger than some of the novelists and essayists whose words adorn his art. But nothing could be further from the truth.

“Yes, a cover can be a sales tool, but it can just get your attention,” he says. “The question I get asked with astonishing regularity, and have for decades now, is ‘Do you read the books before you design them?’ Oh my god yes! Yes yes yes yes yes!”

Everything he does is in service to the text. Which means he has to flex his creative muscle while still respecting the source.

“It’s tricky — each book is its own particular case,” Kidd says from his office in New York City. “ I could give you a whole case study on [McCarthy’s] The Road and how we ended up with what we did. But different authors want different things. I have been doing this 25 years and counting, and that’s working non-stop. There is every conceivable story [of how a design came about].”

Those stories, in fact, make up a presentation of his work that he’ll bring to the Dallas Museum of Art this week.

There are carefully planned successes, and unexpected failures, “such as the horrible [cover] you have to do again and again until everyone gives up,” he says.

“But the opposite of that is also true: The one where everything comes together.”

Kidd is thinking about his design for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, an experience “that was almost too good to be true. The [final design ] is bookshelvesexactly what I presented to our editor-in-chief. I usually do about three different things, but this one I thought was absolutely the best thing to do and everybody agreed. I would say that’s my most favorite or my recent covers.”

Without even reading the book, its cover suggests something ethereal, dreamlike, unnerving — all words that Kidd says capture Murakami’s writing to a tee.

The story begins with a woman in Tokyo navigating down a spiral staircase from a highway, but when she reaches the bottom, she feels she has entered a parallel universe. Kidd originally considered a Tokyo cityscape, “but faces work remarkably well on an emotional level and on an aesthetic level. I just started researching faces of Japanese women.” Suddenly, an instant classic.
It’s not always that easy.

“We publish every conceivable kind of book — cookbooks, crime fiction, literature,” Kidd says. And he has to bring that creative bent to all of them.

“Genre stuff is hardest because you want to transcend the genre,” he says. ” Technically, 1Q84 is science fiction — there is supernatural stuff going on, though it is very subtle. So a design ethos of mine is, if you can predict what I’m going to do, I’ve failed.”

There is a shorthand that develops when he works with the same authors over and over, but even that’s almost incidental, because “I try to wipe the slate clean every time.” Still, no one can deny his covers for Michael Crichton’s books, such are Jurassic Park, became part of the iconography of the novels. (I tell Kidd Disclosure is still one of the best dust jackets I’ve ever seen. “Yes, that’s about as good as it gets,” he agrees.)

Turning a hardcover jacket into a paperback soft-cover is a whole different beast, which comes with its own dynamics.

“There are so many different factors at play” in designing a paperback, he says. “Sometimes it’s about whether the hardcover was perceived to have under-performed. Then you have the opposite and everything in between: Let’s keep this and that element and change the rest. One of the things we follow here at Knopf is, at the end of the day you want the author to be pleased. You sometimes talk them into it or you compromise. There is a sort of buttered-side-down aspect to this business.”

What does it take to make a lasting, memorable cover? Even Kidd’s not sure. Certainly, though, he’s agree that the original jacket for The Great Gatsby is iconic. Not so much.

“From a graphic designer’s point of view, coming into it cold, it’s not great — it’s kind of silly! Eyes floating over a purple sky…? But the book is iconic so the cover became iconic. The most important thing is the text. … though from a book collector’s point of view, to find a first edition with a jacket is worth tons and tons of money.”

Spoken like someone who understands art and business.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Starvoice • 12.23.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

David Sedaris turns 55 on Monday. The openly gay author first came to attention with his 1992 broadcast of his SantaLand Diaries on NPR. He’s written iconic bestsellers such as 1997’s Naked and 2000’s Me Talk Pretty One Day, but received major criticism for an article in The Guardian this past summer about exotic Chinese food and culture that was deemed insensitive.

……………………..

THIS WEEK

The sun conjoining Pluto in Capricorn heightens awareness of authority and bureaucratic structures that hem us in, as well as the revolutionary urge to smash them. Impulsive acts of rebellion are disastrous. Revolutions need careful planning.

……………………..

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
While your intuitions about money are on the mark it helps to double-check the facts. Avoid dithering and second-guessing yourself. Being rigorous is good; beating yourself up isn’t.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
There is such a thing as being too nice when you can’t hide bitchy undertones. There are no secrets. Whatever you say will slip out. Talk about celebrities instead of gossiping.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Your intuition and advice are worth more than you realize. If you listened to yourself, you’d be better off! Blurting out a secret proves to your advantage if it’s your secret and nobody else’s.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Sudden outbursts reveal hidden depths and secret strengths. Open up to your insightful friends. Working too hard can upset the apple cart. Pace yourself to be effective with your colleagues.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Sassy, daring boldness is atypical for Taureans, but work whatever energy you have to get ahead. You reveal more of yourself than you had intended, but that should work in your favor, too.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Any simmering domestic problems are sure to boil over. To head off resentments, open up to your partner first about personal fears and anxieties and see how that feeds the other issues.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Holidays put stress on relationships. This decade is especially tough for that, and the next few years will be worse. Talk about your shared commitment and learn from rough spots.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Being nice with people can be a challenge, but honing your teamwork skills makes it worthwhile. The real trick is to balance that with creative impulses that require your individual initiative.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Working at enjoyment misses the point. Working toward an accomplishment can slide into obsession. If something is supposed to be fun isn’t any more, step back and think about it.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
When the going gets tough, the tough get creative. A spat shows serious problems unsuspected, but the solution is within reach. It’s not easy, but small sacrifices on both sides fix it.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Your revolutionary ideas are on the right track, but discuss them with an expert who shares your ideals. If your partner feels neglected swallow your pride, apologize, and deal with it.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
What would your perfect job look like? You will have the opportunity to improve your work situation. For now, nurture the ideal.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Savagely better

BETTER ALL THE TIME | Dan Savage, right, and his partner Terry Miller offered a helping voice for LGBT youth during a rash of suicides with the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign. The campaign has grown that the couple has turned it into a book. Savage comes to Dallas to talk up the book and likely, some sex.

Giving advice on sex or telling LGBT youth it gets better, people listen to Dan Savage

Sex advice guru Dan Savage — whose column/podcast/iPhone-iPod app Savage Love has made him the queer Dear Abby — founded and launched the It Gets Better Project (ItGetsBetter.org) in September 2010 with husband Terry Miller via its first YouTube video. At the time, he never expected that it would go as far as it has in sheer numbers (10,000-plus and counting) and input from across the globe and social strata: President Obama’s video went up just a month later, and Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns was attributed with expanding the cause when his (unrelated) heartfelt confessional went viral.

Now the book companion, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living (Dutton; $21.95), edited by Savage and Miller, drops, featuring all-new essays by the likes of David Sedaris, Kate Clinton, Michael Cunningham and Alison Bechdel, as well as video transcriptions and expanded essays from high-profile personalities and everyday folks alike.

Savage, who serves as editorial director for Seattle’s The Stranger weekly and recently shot a TV series pilot for MTV (he’s awaiting word on whether it’s being picked up), spoke about the book, where he turns for advice, and the next social-sexual mission on his agenda.

— Lawrence Ferber


Dallas Voice: How does this book further the It Gets Better mission and message? Dan Savage: The book includes pieces from people who haven’t made videos. It also creates another way for kids who need to hear these messages to find them. I’ve written books before, and you never really know where a book is going to wind up. Sometimes they wind up in school libraries; I’ve gotten notes from people who stumbled across my book The Kid in the Himalayas. The Internet has tremendous reach, of course, and kids are wired and tech savvy, but not all kids have access to the Internet and not all kids want to leave a browser history that might incriminate them. So this gives another way to reach a lot of kids.

Who would you like to see contribute an It Gets Better video or message but hasn’t yet? I would love for the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, to make one. I would like to see — and am not surprised we have not seen — a video from a prominent Republican elected official. There has been not one. I wish every politician would make one.

Look at New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He made a video where he said we welcome everybody — LGBT youth have a home in New York if where you’re at is not welcoming you. At the same time that he released that video, he slashed funding for the Ali Forney Center, which is a shelter for LGBT teens, and he was called out for his hypocrisy. People were able to use the video to shame him and he reversed [his decision] and re-funded the center. So calling in these chits, and being able to hold the people to the promises they made in their videos, is valuable.

That said, for me the most important videos are the ones from people no one’s ever heard of — average, everyday LGBT folks reaching out and sharing their joy with LGBT kids who may be having trouble picturing a future for themselves. Queer kids know there are gay celebrities out there, and straight celebs and politicians who are fine with gay people, but what some of them are having trouble picturing is how they get from being a bullied, miserable 14-year-old gay kid whose family is also tormenting them to a happy, secure, loved and perhaps, reconciled with their family gay adult.

What are the next steps in It Gets Better’s future? There’s a good body of videos and we want to archive and tag them so they’re more easily searched. There are a lot by trans people, but you can’t always tell which just by looking at the thumbnail images, so we would need to make them easier to break out into playlists and search. We’re working on that now. The mission after that is to make sure that five to 10 years from now, once this moment of such intense media interest has passed, that kids who are 5 today and going to be 15 then and don’t know about the website can find their way there. We have to make sure that there is enough money raised to host and maintain the website and awareness about it in schools and where kids are at.

As a sex advice columnist, who do you look to or read for sex advice? I read a lot of sex columns. I like In & Out, Caroline Hax, Dear Prudence, Margo Howard. If you go to TheStranger.com/Savage, there’s a blogroll called “Want a Second Opinion?” which is links to other columns I approve of and enjoy.

So what is the one issue when it comes to our sex lives that you have made your number one mission to change through your work? I just want people to be more realistic about monogamy. People’s expectations about what a long-term relationships is like are so in conflict with what LTRs are actually like that a lot of decent, fine, functional relationships have ended because people had irrational expectations. If we can change expectations we can save a lot of relationships. Life-long sexual monogamy and the expectation that an LTR is always going to be this extraordinarily passionate fuck-fest sets us all up for disappointment.

And is there one strategy you are taking to go about that? It’s an issue that constantly comes up. Sexual dissatisfaction, mismatched libidos, unmet sexual needs, people being cut off sexually by their spouses after they have children. I’m in the position often of recommending what I describe as “the least worst option.” I think if the choice is a nasty divorce that upends the lives of four to five people and family or a little discreet infidelity that makes it possible for that family to remain intact and otherwise completely functional, I’m for infidelity.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

’Tis the season

Christmastime gears up stage traditions

PANTO-MOM | Ivan Jones, right, plays Governess Amplebottom in ‘Babes in the Wood,’ a fairy tale take on Robin Hood that’s suitable for kids but full of double entendres. (Photo by Mark Trew)

With Thanksgiving now behind us, theater companies are pullout out their Christmas fare — many with more-than-holiday appeal to the gay community. Check out these shows that might jingle your bells.

A Christmas Carol (Dallas Theater Center). The classic production returns to Oak Lawn, with a few tweaks. Back in the cast are local actors Chamblee Ferguson and Liz Mikel … only this time in new roles. Ferguson has matured from Cratchit to his boss, playing Scrooge, and Mikel returns, now in the role of the ghost of Jacob Marley. Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Opens Dec. 3, runs daily (except Mondays) through Dec. 24. DallasTheaterCenter.org.

The Santaland Diaries (Contemporary Theatre of Dallas). Another tradition is back, as actor Nye Cooper and director Coy Covington add some holiday jeer with David Sedaris’ hilarious antidote to Christmas treacle, about a gay elf toiling away at Macy’s during the holiday. Ho-ho-homo! Greenville Center for the Arts, 5601 Sears St. Opens Dec. 3; runs weekends through Dec. 23. ContemporaryTheatreofDallas.com.

Babes in the Wood (Theatre Britain). Dallas’ resident Anglophile troupe has a new venue and a new show, its annual world premiere panto. A tradition in England for 200 years, this fairy tale always features a cross-dressing comic dame (played this year by Ivan Jones) who tells lots of lascivious jokes that go over the kids’ heads but keep the adults laughing. Cox Building Playhouse, 1517 Avenue H, Plano. Opens Dec. 3, runs weekends through Dec. 23. Theatre-Britain.com.

The Drowsy Chaperone (Theatre Three). It’s not a Christmas show, but this buoyant musical — about a forgotten but goofily charming Depression Era musical that comes to life in a gay man’s apartment — is loaded with good cheer and a smartness about the conventions of the form. Theatre Three, 2900 Routh St. in the Quadrangle. Currently in previews; opens Dec. 6, runs through Jan. 8 (no performances Christmas week). Theatre3Dallas.com.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens