An Encounter with David Sedaris
It was 10:30pm on Saturday night, and I’d been sitting on the curb of Locust Street for four hours. When I arrived at the corner of 10th and Locust, the street in front of Left Bank Books Downtown was already packed with people sitting in lawn chairs or on blankets, sipping drinks and listening to David Sedaris read from his latest book, “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.” Sedaris’ radio-perfect voice told stories of his life over a background of faint blues guitar riffs from Soldiers’ Memorial, punctuated by frequent laughter. A pair of infants and a toddler were the only members of the crowd under the age of 18, too young to understand the exaggerated, yet brutally honest and insightful adult humor Sedaris is famous for.
Over 350 had come to hear Sedaris read, and only 200 fit inside the bookstore. The rest, myself among them, settled down on Locust next to the two Fiats that blocked the street at its intersection with 10th. After the reading, Sedaris signed books, beginning with the 200 people already inside the store. My ticket was number 328, so I was glad I’d bought a copy of his new book to read while I waited. The book is classic David Sedaris, a collection of narrative essays about events in his life from childhood to the present. I’m a fan because his writing blends humor with reflection, willing to laugh at anything but also face hard truths. I sat on Locust and read until it was finally my turn, around 1:00am.
When David Sedaris signs a book for you, he doesn’t just write his name on the title page. He asks you a question, and you have a short conversation while he draws a small picture or finds the perfect sticker to put in your book. He correctly guessed where I go to college (Washington University), and my astrological sign (Pisces), but he couldn’t guess where I first bought one of his books (the Scholastic book fair at my Catholic high school). He signed two books for me, drawing a bloody knife with multiple Sharpie colors in one and decorating the other with a kitten sticker. Those books will be mementos of my encounter with a celebrity writer I admire, and reminders that my own hometown can still surprise me with its offerings.