Good coffee and quips with David Sedaris
Trashing other books on the best-seller list . . . Teasing Dublin waitresses . . . There’s a sense of devilment about Sedaris, an arch humorist whose stories are a lesson in precision writing
“I’m not writing about my sister, really, I’m just writing I’d made plans before she killed herself. I’d made plans for my whole family to get together at the beach for a week, and so we did. We got together at the beach for a week. So it’s a story about our week at the beach with this kind of hanging [over us], because she had left it in her will that we could not have her body or attend her funeral, so it was like . . . ” he laughs slightly nervously, “our hands were kind of tied. Because normally you’d be planning the funeral or just come from the funeral and you would have thought, ‘Oh, it was so nice to see so and so at the funeral’, but there was none of that.
“We used to go to the beach every summer when we were kids, and we hadn’t been in 20 years. So kind of revisiting that beach situation, but you’re not young any more, we’re middle-aged now and there’s a conspicuous absence. But I would still like it to be funny because there were things that happened that week that were funny, so it’s going to be interesting to see if I can pull that off.”
Dublin Airport story
Sedaris’s notebook goes everywhere, and he finds himself constructing stories in different places – such as Dublin Airport.
“When I was in line this morning, I thought about writing a story that would take place in line. But it’s really hard to pull that off, a completely interior story. I was in line this morning, deciding in which order I would kill people, basically. Like all the Americans who were in line, I was just thinking: can you say anything that’s not a cliche? And then the noise that people make? That laugh, that they feel like they have to make a sound or something? Like, oh God.”
He recalls an excellent interior story by Dorothy Parker, Shall We Dance. “There has to be a way to make that work. And because it’s a passport line too, I’d be killing people of all races and nationalities, equally, without discrimination.”
He laughs and goes off into the characters: “And you know the guy who just doesn’t . . . it’s like, he hasn’t advanced in 15 feet. What are you doing on your phone? What are you doing on your phone that you didn’t notice that? You’ve been standing here for over an hour and every time the line advances. Do you know what I mean? Like who are you texting? You have no friends.”
He cracks up. “You start hating everybody in that situation. So I made little notes.”