David Sedaris is not everyone’s cup of tea but America’s favorite humorist and memoirist has sold seven million copies of his books. He must be doing something right. The secret to his success is autobiographical essays that make fun of himself, his life, his family and his middle class up-bringing in North Carolina.
A long-time resident of Normandy, France, where he lives with his partner, Hugh, Sedaris has a unique place in American literature at the moment. His memoirs seem to hit the spot. Contributions to National Public Radio have also helped to build his reputation as the man who points out the extraordinary things about ordinary life. His latest book is When You are Engulfed in Flames and it is selling like hot cakes.
Never short of a comment, Sedaris is the darling of feature writers for being able to pull a memorable quote out of the air. Here are some of his words of wisdom.
Sedaris on his family...
“I never thought that I wrote about my family that much. I guess I have. But my brother loves to be written about. My sister Tiffany told me years ago, ‘You can never write about me.’ Then she called six months ago and said she wanted to be in a story. She was worried people thought I didn't like her.”
Time Magazine, June 14, 2004
Sedaris on James Frey’s made-up memoir...
''His punishment outweighed his crime. I don't recall Oprah Winfrey calling George Bush a liar when he was on her show. And those lies cost thousands of people their lives.''
Entertainment Weekly, 6 June 2008
Sedaris on living with Hugh in Normandy...
“I write that I live in France with my boyfriend because it's true. I'm not trying to make a point. I don't want people to pause when they read that and think, ‘I don't relate to him because he has a boyfriend and I'm not gay.’ We should have reached a time by now where that reads the same as ‘I live in France with my wife ...’”
The Advocate, 20 June 2000
Sedaris on writing...
“If I'm going to make fun of something, I need to find that in myself and then exaggerate it. But I find that if I don't start with me, with the honest truth of it, then it's not going to work when it's blown up. It's going to be empty.”
Index Magazine, 1997
Sedaris on reading...
"I didn't read when I was a kid. I started reading everything I could get my hands on, all those books that people were supposed to read. And I started reading a lot of contemporary fiction. At first I was just in awe of the books. I was keeping a diary at the time, but I could clearly see the difference between what was in my diary and what was in the pages of these books.”
Berkshireweb.com, April 1998
Sedaris on monkeys...
“Well, there’s an organization that trains monkeys to work as slaves for quadriplegics. They’re called Helping Hands Monkeys, and I’m doing some fund-raising for them. They brought a monkey to my book signing in Boston. I don’t know if you’ve ever shared a podium with a monkey, but there’s really no point in reading. Nobody is paying attention to you.”
Believer Magazine, October 2005
Sedaris on Hugh...
“If there's any guy standing behind me people will say, ‘Is that Hugh?’ And I'm like, ‘Do you think he has nothing better to do than to travel around with me and stand behind me while I sign books?’ One time, though, there was a beefy Puerto Rican security guy, very stern and very tough, so I told everybody that was Hugh. I could see how irritating that was for him, because here's everybody thinking that he's gay and that he's my boyfriend. But his job was to protect me, not to kill me. So there was nothing he could do about it.”
Mother Jones Magazine, July 2008