David Sedaris, modern master of satire and wit, visited Binghamton University on Wednesday night to talk about life, his upcoming book and the craft of writing.
Sedaris, an award-winning author, is known mainly for his humorous personal essays. Each story recounts a memory that is equal parts hysterical and cringe-worthy. His most notable works are collections “Barrel Fever,” “Holidays on Ice” and “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” His latest book, “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls,” debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in April 2013.
Sedaris began “An Evening with David Sedaris” by remarking about the city he hails from: Binghamton.
“It’s interesting — Binghamton hasn’t changed at all,” he said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd. “I mean, they’ve built maybe one new house since I lived there.”
This playful relationship between the author and the audience set the tone for the night.
As he began reading the essay “The Perfect Fit,” it became clear that Sedaris does not take himself too seriously. The essay was dedicated to a trip he took to Japan with his two sisters, his love for shopping and culottes — women’s pants that resemble a skirt — much to the dismay of his partner, Hugh. He even wore a pair of culottes to the reading.
“They’re culottes,” he said. “I’m not wearing a skirt!”
Even for those already familiar with his writing, this show was still enjoyable.
“Although I follow him closely and had already read some of the essays he shared, he still had so much to offer,” said Addie Dean, a junior majoring in cinema.
During the reading, it was easy to get lost in Sedaris’ words; it was almost as if you were talking with a friend and reliving your own personal memory. It is the nonchalance that Sedaris used when describing why he doesn’t care for museums — “because the museum doesn’t sell shit” — and how he is inclined to buy anything that involves a ladder or a set of keys that makes him so zany yet relatable.
Central to Sedaris’ talk and to his work as a writer is his diary. In fact, it is the basis for his upcoming collection of essays.
“I’ve been keeping a diary for 40 years,” Sedaris said. “But going back and reading your diary from when you were 20 years old is awful, it’s all full of feelings. I mean, I don’t think I’ve had a feeling since 1982.”
All jokes aside, Sedaris journals every morning, often reflecting upon the previous day. As an author, Sedaris feels there is so much to learn from one’s younger self and one’s experiences.
During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, an audience member asked if Sedaris had any advice for students who wanted to make a career out of writing. Sedaris explained that writing is a process that requires practice and failure and that learning from your own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others, is crucial to success in any career.
“You learn a lot from other people’s mistakes,” Sedaris said. “It’s really good to go to someone else’s performance and it’s even better to sit in the audience.”