Thursday, June 11, 2009

David Sedaris at the CBC

I'm taking a quick break from my staging reports to write about another passion of mine.

From the first page of the first book of his I've read, I've been a David Sedaris fan.

In fact, I'm a raging Sedaris fan. If I hear his name mentioned from across the room I'll go over to join the conversation. So when I found out he was coming to CBC for a Studio One Book Club, I was THERE.

He squeezed in one hour for a conversation with hosts Sheryl MacKay and Jen Sookfong Lee...and over 120 Sedaris heads. I knew this was going to be popular, but not everyone else seemed to anticipate it. The first person there was in line at 9 am...and the second at 10. The book club didn't start till 3 pm.

Yeah. If you don't know David Sedaris you won't understand why, but if you know him, then you know.

I was sitting in the back next to the technician. I asked him if he'd ever read David Sedaris. He said the name was familiar but he wasn't well versed.

He spent the first ten minutes reading from his diaries of months past. It's really hard to recreate his stories without just transcribing them, but here's a synopsis by most prominent words: breastmilk, marmots, marshmallows, get the idea.

The story that stuck out for me the most was one he told when someone in the audience asked him why his writing style has changed over the years. He said that he had hurt someone in one of his stories. If you've read "Me Talk Pretty One Day" you know the story about his trying to learn French and his sometimes outrageous French teacher. In the story he talks about how the teacher jabbed a student in the eye with a pencil and screamed at them a lot. However, as David says, he neglected to say "we really liked her". He regretted not adding that in. Very illuminating moment.

I knew if I didn't ask a question I was going to regret it so I asked him, as someone who writes a lot of poignant stories, which ones were emotionally difficult to write. He brought up the story about his mother's death...and then digressed into struggling to articulate his experience at a nudist colony. He said he didn't quite "get it" until he rewrote it while naked.

Sheryl and Jen were laughing so hard during this I actually felt bad for them because I could tell they were trying to keep their composure. It's hard to laugh at someone when you're right next to them -- even when you're laughing at something they've said -- if they're not laughing with you. I discovered that when I was standing up there, trying not to pee my pants while he was answering my question.

There was a great exchange right at the end between David and an audience member. She gave him some facts on breastmilk..

Audience Member: Did you know breastmilk can squirt across the room?
David: I met a woman who used breastmilk to write her name in the snow. She ran out of "ink".
AM: It can squirt spontaneously.
DS: I met a woman whose breastmilk squirted out in the shower. Later, when she came back to the shower there were ants on the wall and they were eating it.

So for future not try to out-story David Sedaris. At least, not when it comes to breastmilk.

At the end of the show, I asked the technician if he was going to go get one of his books. He said yes. I think another fan was born.

What I was really hoping to do was to meet him face to face. Because he got there just in time and was whisked off right away, I didn't get a chance.

But as I was leaving the building -- there he and his entourage were -- waiting for a cab. I have always hated asking people for autographs and photos. I would so much rather take them to lunch and have a genuine interaction with them. Of course this is almost always impossible. I watched another guy race out of the building to get a couple autographs. I suppose I could've jumped on his bandwagon, but watching David hurriedly try to sign these while his people were getting his bags into a cab...I would rather remember our interaction at the book club. Him -- being hilarious, thoughtful and honest and me -- trying to politely listen while laughing and crying at the same time.

By the way, you can hear the whole Studio One Book Club on North by Northwest THIS Saturday on CBC Radio One -- 690 AM and 88.1 FM in the Lower Mainland. I don't know what time it'll be on specifically -- but the show runs from 6 to 9 am. It's worth waking up early! Trust me!

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