Sedaris, David


Sedaris, David
▪ 2006

      Only a few years earlier, American essayist David Sedaris had refused to call himself a writer, but by 2005 he was reading his books to standing-room-only audiences, had been nominated for two Grammy Awards, and was the editor of an anthology of his own favourite short stories. Sedaris's recording of pieces from his nonfiction book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004) was nominated for the Grammy for best spoken word album, and David Sedaris: Live at Carnegie Hall (2003) was nominated for the award for best comedy album. Of the authors whose stories he anthologized in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (2005), Sedaris wrote, “The authors in this book are huge to me, and I am a comparative midget, scratching around in their collective shadow.” His fans, and many critics, would not have agreed, however: Sedaris was already being compared to Mark Twain, James Thurber, and Dorothy Parker, and Time Out New York proclaimed him “the funniest man alive.”

      David Raymond Sedaris was born on Dec. 26, 1956, in Johnson City, N.Y. He grew up in Raleigh, N.C., the second oldest of six siblings. His father was an IBM executive, and his mother presided over their raucous household. In 1977 Sedaris dropped out of Kent (Ohio) State University to hitchhike around the United States. On the road he took several unusual jobs and started writing a diary on placemats in diners. While attending (1985–87) the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he began reading his diaries at a local club, and he eventually was invited to read them on the city's public radio station. In 1991 he moved to New York, where he first appeared on National Public Radio in December 1992 reading his story “The SantaLand Diaries,” which recounted his experiences as a Christmas elf at Macy's department store in Manhattan. Within months of the broadcast, Sedaris's essays began to appear in such magazines as Harper's, The New Yorker, and Esquire. His first book, Barrel Fever, which included “The SantaLand Diaries,” was published in 1994. Naked (1997) included a portrait of his wisecracking, perspicacious mother, who died prematurely from cancer. In Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000) Sedaris anatomized failed attempts at communication. The subjects treated in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim could have been taken from anyone's diary, but Sedaris, by elucidating with a surgeon's skill the countless gaps and crossed wires in each interaction he described, demonstrated once again the hilarious absurdity lurking beneath the veneer of ordinariness. In 2001 he was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and Time magazine named him Humorist of the Year. With his sister Amy he wrote a number of plays, including One Woman Shoe (1995), which received an Off-Broadway Theater Award.

Janet Moredock

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▪ American humorist and essayist
in full  David Raymond Sedaris 
born Dec. 26, 1956, Johnson City, N.Y., U.S.
 
 American humorist and essayist best known for his sardonic autobiographical stories and social commentary, which appeared on the radio and in numerous best-selling books.

      Sedaris grew up in Raleigh, N.C., the second oldest of six siblings; his sister Amy also became a noted humorist. In 1977 he dropped out of Kent State University (Ohio) to hitchhike around the United States. On the road, he took several unusual jobs and started writing a diary on placemats in diners. While attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1985–87), Sedaris began reading his diaries at a local club, and he eventually was invited to read them on the city's public radio station.

 In 1991 Sedaris moved to New York, where he first appeared on National Public Radio in December 1992, reading his story The SantaLand Diaries, which recounted his experiences as a Christmas elf at Macy's department store in Manhattan. Within months of the broadcast, Sedaris's essays began to appear in such magazines as Harper's, The New Yorker, and Esquire. His first book, Barrel Fever, which included The SantaLand Diaries, was published in 1994. Naked (1997) includes a portrait of his wisecracking, perspicacious mother. In Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Sedaris anatomized failed attempts at communication. In 2001 he was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

      In his next book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004), Sedaris, by elucidating with a surgeon's skill the countless gaps and crossed wires in each interaction he described, demonstrated once again the hilarious absurdity lurking beneath the veneer of ordinariness. His recording of pieces from the book was nominated for a Grammy Award for best spoken-word album, and David Sedaris: Live at Carnegie Hall (2003) received a Grammy nomination for best comedy album. In 2005 Sedaris edited Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, an anthology of stories from his favourite authors. Allegations that he had exaggerated or even fabricated some of his nonfiction works surfaced in 2007 but had little negative impact on Sedaris, who was already being compared to Mark Twain (Twain, Mark), James Thurber (Thurber, James), and Dorothy Parker (Parker, Dorothy). In 2008 he published his sixth essay collection, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

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Universalium. 2010.

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