Thursday, May 6, 2010
Love in the Time of Sedaris
I have always been a fan of reading, but I admit that for most of my life, I was a strict consumer of best sellers and Oprah approved books. I still am, of course, but over the last 6 years or so, I've been learning to broaden my literary horizon. Often times, these things depend on the company you keep, spending days and days with people who prefer classic or obscure literature, I challenge you not to give in, and give it a try.
When I first discovered Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Kerouac and Hermann Hesse (three of many new authors to me at the time) I was pleasantly surprised. These were names I'd heard before, but knew nothing about. I associated their books with dull, old, high-school appointed reading I'd have to slog through. Without the misadventures of easy reading, I wasn't interested. What changed my mind, or should I say, what opened my mind, was simply a day of having no new book to take on the subway with me, I grabbed a random book off the shelf, and thought, 'hmm not bad'.
I don't profess to have read many books by these authors, rather if you test me on any one of them, I'd fail miserably, but they launched me forward into my own literary discoveries. Books by Daniel Quinn, which burst the proverbial bubble that surrounded the life I thought was real, and changed my world-view permanently. I was finally able to read Henry Miller and not bore myself to death, it wasn't until the third reading of Tropic of Cancer, that I was able to complete it. It just took an understanding of that particular style, taking it for what it was, and appreciating it. I fell in love with Anais Nin, wishing that I could live her word-filled, experience-ridden life. She was 28 when she wrote "Henry & June" and I was nearly 27 when I read it. Being almost the same age as the author, it made me think quite a bit about the existence I was living. My life certainly didn't contain the sexual exploits, nor did I wish it to, but the mere fact that she was living, just the way she chose, struck me down.
Eventually, I lost access to those extensive bookshelves, so was on a solo literary journey. This is when I discovered blogs, which I believe are, in a sense, a modern form of guerrilla style writing, minus having a publisher and payment. Books of short stories and essays by emerging authors, again, near my age. Miranda July, Stephen Chbosky and my favourite, Sloane Crosley. For those of you who followed my 'story a day' venture, know that it had everything to do with Sloane Crosley, an endless source of inspiration for me, a voice so like my own, I felt relieved and inspired. Somewhere along the Sloane Crosley lines, I read that a big inspiration of hers was David Sedaris. Now, this was an author I had definitely heard of, but mistakenly held in the same regard as Kerouac and Burroughs - dead.
Since Crosley was such a huge inspiration to me, I felt I had to begin reading the books by one of her inspirations. I looked up Sedaris to find out what his books were called, and any more info on him and what?? He's alive and young and living in New York City? Was this the same Sedaris I had thought was a long dead, fogey, classic author? Shocked. I've now read his first two books, personal essays and fictional short stories filled with cringe-worthy dark humour and I'm hooked. But why do I always find myself reading books which continue to rip away at the few remaining shreds of my bubble. Sedaris' stories are wicked, twisted, revealing stories of the pure reality of the human condition, and David Sedaris, I am so glad I discovered you.