Sedaris fans will covet ‘Theft by Finding’
Humor writer offers diary entries from 1977 to 2002
As with prospecting in the Yukon, diaries tend to produce more gravel than gold.
Even when compiled and edited by David Sedaris, whose eccentric existence is eminently enthralling, there are issues.
People appear and disappear without introduction or context. Times and places change willy-nilly. The reader learns what the author is up to, but rarely why. The year 1995 gets short shrift: less than three pages. Rough patch? Boring times? Coma?
But this is Sedaris, who can be wickedly funny as well as deliciously insightful about modern mores — so the nuggets are big and shiny and well worth panning for. An otherwise ho-hum entry can be punctuated by a literary sucker punch: “Last week I was visited by two Catholic nuns collecting money for what I can only hope were new uniforms …”
Theft by Finding: Diaries 19772002 (Little, Brown, 528 pp., eeeg) traces the author’s ascent from his peripatetic, drugand-alcohol-infused 20s — picking apples and cleaning houses — through his initial success as a writer and debut on National Public Radio: narrating a hilarious account of being a department store elf.
Fans will recognize some old friends, including Helen, his irascible neighbor. The entry for Feb. 28, 1994, reads: “Helen knocked this morning and asked me to
mail some (expletive) for her. Literally. ‘It’s a stool sample,’ she said.”
Sedaris turns over the rocks that litter the human landscape and records what comes creepycrawling out: racism, homophobia or just weirdness.
Random acts of meanness are peppered throughout. Walking down a Raleigh, N.C., street, Sedaris is threatened with an anti-gay slur by a carload of drunken men.
On the brighter side, Sedaris shares favorite recipes and odd jokes that strike his fancy.
Princess Diana and Mother Teresa are in heaven and the future saint is not pleased: “‘It isn’t fair,’ she says. ‘All those years I lived in squalor, devoting myself to the sick and suffering. All she did was attend cocktail parties and model clothes, so how come she has a halo and I don’t?” God says, ‘That’s not a halo, it’s a steering wheel.’ ”
If you don’t think that’s funny, this probably isn’t the book for you.
Author David Sedaris