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David Sedaris and the conundrum of popularity


The good thing about living in a big, wonderful city like Los Angeles is that you can be sure that big, wonderful writers like David Sedaris will come through town. The bad thing is that there's no guarantee you'll get to see them.

Sedaris is visiting Vroman's Bookstore this Sunday at 5 p.m. on his book tour to promote "When You Are Engulfed in Flames." I'd be tempted to whine about all the restrictions placed on attending — if I'd gotten one of the free tickets, that is. But what's the use? The Sedaris reading is "sold out."

How do bookstore appearances sell out? Do guys in yellow security jackets guard the door? (They just might.)

Vroman's, a big wonderful bookstore, has tried to make it up to the ticketless masses by allowing anybody who can't get into the reading to join the signing line (also ticketed) and by posting a podcast interview with the author. It's a bit salt-in-the-wound, but still, it's there and it's free.

There is another way to see David Sedaris ... after the jump.

If your timing is good, you may still be able to buy tickets to his appearance at UCLA's Royce Hall on Saturday night.

Although that talk is officially sold out, extra tickets are making their way into the UCLA sales database; a few $55 seats in the orchestra had opened up this afternoon.

Other than magical timing, you may actually do better traveling to a place not quite so populous as Los Angeles (although this could mean Canada). In Pittsburgh, a grad student colleague of mine not only got to see David Sedaris earlier this month — but also got to talk to him before his reading.

At least he'll be on the radio: Sedaris can be heard Friday on Patt Morrison's show, which begins at 1 p.m. on KPCC-FM (89.3). 

Carolyn Kellogg

Comments () | Archives (9)

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Sold out or not, at least I get to read his books. David Sedaris is so funny, so observant, so delightfully deranged. When I read one of his essays and laugh out loud, then I get my money's worth. His one-week trip to a nudist camp is butt-hysterical. His mom and dad? I see parts of my own parents in them. His siblings? I know them all too well. When humor and familiarity come together, I am profoundly entertained and hopelessly nostalgic. If you've never read a Sedaris book, you are cheating yourself big time. Get with it, you silly people!

David Spedaris isn't nearly as funny as Super Celebrity Michael Ian Black (very famous). MIB's book has a much better title too:
My Custom Van: And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays that Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face.

Also, David Spedaris is a supervillian and hates America.

Learn more here!:


I love David Sedaris. He is so funny and insightful. I'd bet that the person who posted that David Sedaris is un-American is 1: not funny, 2: extremely unattractive and 3: lame.

I picked up his latest book a few days ago. Some of the essays are funny. This is the first book I'm reading by him. The waiting room is a good one.

It's funny but not memorable. It's interesting, I'll read an essay, laugh at some parts, think it's really funny and then forget it instantly. It's rather superficial humor, instant gratification type of funny. That's alright it serves its purpose.

I read a few essays last night and this morning they have left no impact. Usually a good book/movie/music awakens me to something in the morning, if I've read it the night before...it's light entertainment, that's alright.

I get that he thinks his family is/ was dysfunctional and that most American families are dysfunctional and having a mom and dad is just wrong and again dysfunctional, some of my bitter and cynical friends really enjoy him. I just think they don't know what dysfunctional really is....

I wouldn't buy another book of his though. I had to read for myself what all the hype was about.

Personally, I didn't think the new book was nearly as funny as "Me Talk Pretty One Day". In his earlier pieces, Mr. Sedaris' humor came from a deep, dark, cynical place. Maybe his happy new Parisian domesticity has tamed his sarcasm and wit? Whatever the reason, when I read Me Talk Pretty One Day (or, before that, Naked), I was constantly laughing out loud. With this book, I only laughed out loud twice.

The reason Sedaris's appearances are so popular is that he is one of the very few authors who is good at reading their material. His insouciant style is infectious and funny to the point that after hearing him read you find yourself reading his books in his voice. That's why he's the only author who has ever read work on the Letterman show.

I saw Sedaris in Chicago a couple of years ago. Read the books and save your money. All he does is read his books. He admits as much and is honest in his befuddlement that people pay money to come and see him read. Stay home....read another book.

Tobacco takes more life-years than war. Don't glamorize it.

The following is from SCIENCE. 25 JANUARY 2008. VOL 319:424-434. www.sciencemag.org. Format and wording slightly modified.


Fundamental cause, Millions of years of life lost
Childhood and maternal malnutrition, 200
High blood pressure, cholesterol, overweight, low physical activity, 150
Unsafe sex, 80
Tobacco, 50
Unsafe water, 50
War and revolution (20th-century average), 40
Indoor smoke from solid fuels, 35
Alcohol, 30
Urban air pollution, 6
Global climate change, 5

Contributors to global mortality in 2000, categorized by fundamental causes. Units in column two are millions of years of life lost to premature deaths in the year 2000 (= numbers of premature deaths in 2000 from the indicated cause × average loss of life expectancy per death from that cause). The categorization of fundamental causes and associated lost-life estimates are from WHO (5), except for “war and revolution”; that figure is the author’s estimate for the 20th-century annual average, based on a UN figure of about 100 million conflict-related deaths in the 20th century (6) and the author’s guess of 40 years of lost life expectancy per conflict-related death.

From an address by: John P. Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, and director of the Woods Hole Research Center. He served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) from February 2006 to February 2007. This article is adapted from the Presidential Address he delivered at the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco on 15 February 2007.

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