Sunday, May 28, 2017

Theft By Finding by David Sedaris

"In the U.K., if you discover something of value and keep it, that's theft by finding."
I kept a diary for long periods in my life. So, I like to read diaries. I read Samuel Pepys' diary. It took me two years. I read it in bed so every night the last line I read was usually, "And so to bed."

I thought it would be great to read David Sedaris's diaries. I have read several books by Sedaris and I've heard him on the radio. The first book I read was on recommendation by a library staff person.

I was living in a teeny rural town where the police chief had his own untrained militia and was armed with ex-military weapons, including a Hummer. I heard the KKK left flyers on driveways. The local church was splitting because the denomination was not strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay and anti-anything else progressive liberal. I went to the library and asked for funny books to raise my spirits, and I was given Holidays on Ice.

Its no wonder funding to libraries has been on the cutting block under the current administration.

Consquently, I should have known what I was getting into when I requested Theft by Finding, excerpts from his 156 volume diary kept between 1977 and 2002.

I had no idea.

"What I prefer recording at the end...of my day are remarkable events I have observed.."

And he has observed some pretty strange events.

At times I thought, what did I get myself into? Other times I laughed out loud, but no way was I going to tell anyone what was so funny. It's  embarrassing to laugh at something so incorrect.

And yet, I realized, Sedaris's stories were, well, pretty believable for all their bizarreness. I lived in Philadelphia and seen some pretty weird stuff myself. But that's another story.

Also, Sedaris has some pretty spot-on insights.

One of my favorites is from November 17, 1987, Chicago. The police had caught a man who had smashed windows and painted swastikas on Jewish businesses. He was a skinhead with tattoos, Sedaris writes,"which is strange, I think, because Jews in concentrations camps had shaved heads and tattoos. you'd think that anti-Semites would go for a different look."

His self-knowledge is also commendable. On January 26, 1999, in Paris, he is called a misogynist. "No," I corrected her, "I'm not a misogynist. I'm a misanthrope. I hate everyone equally."

Sedaris is thoughtful. On December 31, 1998, he wrote that his dad, visiting him in Paris, had the evening before leaned near a candle and set his hair on fire. He wrote, "This morning we went to buy him a hat." Such a good son. Helping Dad keep his dignity by covering up the scorched hair.

In his forward, Sederis suggests readers peruse the book, sampling here and there, now and then. Good luck with that. Frankly, it's hard to put down.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

"Raw glimpses of the humorist's personal life as he clambered from starving artist to household name... though the mood is usually light, the book is also a more serious look into his travails as an artist and person... A surprisingly poignant portrait of the artist as a young to middle-aged man." —Kirkus (starred review)

Theft By Finding
David Sedaris
Little, Brown & Co.
Publication May 30, 2017
$28 hardcover
ISBN: 9780316154727