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David Sedaris: Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Jun 01, 2017
Category: Memoir

David Sedaris hasn’t published a book since 2013. “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls,” like all Sedaris collections was a bestseller, but it was uneven — here’s my review — and I sensed that he was straining to fill the pages.

Silence followed. And now we know why. Sedaris has been reading Sedaris — 40 years of diaries that filled enough notebooks that, if stacked, would be taller than the author. The good news: “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)” isn’t a book published to satisfy his cult’s hunger for “product.” These mini-essays are heartfelt, and funny, and — no surprise — filled with crisp observations that are the Sedaris signature. [To buy the book from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]

Sedaris is now 60. He started writing daily entries in 1977, when he was 20. “It was on the back of a place mat. At a roadside diner,” he says. “It was all very cliché. I had a beret on.”

Some entries…

April 16, 1979, Raleigh: Dad on friendship: ‘Sure, some people are nice. Real nice. Nice like carpets so you can walk all over them.’

Nov. 4, 1987, Chicago: I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, ‘I LOVE KILLING COMMUNISTS.’ The word love was replaced by a heart shape I’m guessing they’ll put on the typewriter keyboard any day now, right beside the exclamation point.”

1990, the year he moved to New York.
I took a cab from Penn Station, and Rusty was waiting at the apartment when I arrived. It’s much bigger than I’d imagined. The neighborhood is too beautiful for me. I don’t deserve it. Or, O.K., my block I deserve. It’s more industrial than the ones around it, and we look out at a parking lot for trucks. Two short blocks away, though, it’s perfect. Tree-lined winding streets, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s enchanting. I can’t picture myself in any of those places, but still. How did I get to live here? Rusty says that some of the apartments in the area are going for a million dollars. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that a ginger ale costs three dollars.

Jan. 13, 1992: I think I peaked in 1988, and it’s all downhill now. How awful, to decline this way. What makes young people young is that they see themselves going up, up, up. Not me, though. I’m old now.

That year, Sedaris wrote “SantaLand Diary,” an essay based on diary entries. Stephen Glass saw him read it. Two days before Christmas, it aired on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Fame was instant.

To read more entries, click here.

In a recent interview, Sedaris and Stephen Colbert walked down Memory Lane:

David Sedaris now lives in West Sussex, England. His day begins with writing, then it does a sharp right turn — he spends as many as seven hours a day walking the highway, picking up trash. Or so it appears. As he walks, he thinks. And what he thinks become diary entries, and maybe more.

Unsurprisingly, he’s had some thoughts about his readers, and how they might approach these pages of self-reflection: “I don’t really expect anyone to read this from start to finish. It seems more like the sort of thing you might dip in and out of, like someone else’s yearbook or a collection of jokes.”

Equally unsurprising, he’s had some thoughts on what the book says about his life: “It’s just as good as you thought it was gonna be when things work out. It’s just exactly as good as you think it is.”