A Dear John Letter to David Sedaris
We’ve had a wonderful run this past year. Starting with the grotesque and fascinating Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, (about which I wrote “you had me at hello”) and then falling in love with you after Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day, I didn’t think things could ever go bad between us. You introduced me to worlds I never knew before. We had a rough patch for a brief time there, with Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, but then you came back to me like never before with When You Are Engulfed in Flames. With everything you showed me in that book, I thought we’d have a lifetime of bliss. But I was wrong. Nothing lasts forever. And now, after reading Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, I’m sorry to say that I think we’re through.
The truth is, it’s not you – it’s me. OK, the truth is that it’s you. Years of writing the same kind of material has made you bitter, and not very funny. Your humor has always been dark and sarcastic, but beneath it all there was a bit of sweetness. Now that sweetness is gone. You seem to be trying too hard to be “David Sedaris” but the jokes are suddenly falling flat. What was once funny is now painful. Also, the tough times that presented you with all of your material are now decades behind you; it’s hard to connect with a man who tells the story of his multiple homes (the essay “Rubbish”). You desperately seek what to write about and in fact write an essay (“Day In, Day Out”) chronicling your diary-keeping, explaining how you mine it for material. How very meta of you. Sadly, this doesn’t keep you from repeating your jokes (the one about your dad having read nothing since Dave Stockton’s Putt to Win in the mid-1990s was mentioned twice by page 87, and is itself a repeat from a prior book.) Finally, about the essays where you adopt a different persona and attempt some social commentary – I appreciate the effort, but it was far more amusing when the personas were squirrels and chipmunks rather than bad mothers and radical right-wingers. For whatever reason, you’re just a little off.
I hope we can still be friends. Keep me posted about what you’re doing and maybe we’ll reconnect someday, when you’re back amongst us regular folks. It’s clear that you need normal life experiences from which to write, and as long as you’re this rich and famous it will be impossible for you to have those experiences. Until then, I’m sitting the next book or two out.
A devoted fan … but not of this book.
PS I see that you were already planning to move on, scheduling “an insightful evening of reading and conversation” with Lena Dunham at Carnegie Hall in November. You are even calling it “Along Together At Last“. Hanging out with the Girls‘ creator won’t help you get back amongst us regular folks, but I’m sure it will be a great event. Don’t worry about me though – I’ll probably be out there somewhere in the audience listening and laughing along with you two. Should be fun!