“I’d tried to straighten him out, but there’s only so much you can do for a person who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer.” (Naked)
I am languid and lounging, sipping coffee on the train with the opening strains of Cannonball Adderley’s rendition of Autumn Leaves caressing my ears. It’s the third cup of coffee that my companion, the writer David Sedaris, has bought me. He is hoping to form a sort of writers’ idea exchange. Not dissimilar to Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris in decades long since past. But that is really an excuse to get close to me, to breathe my air and gaze adoringly into my piercing ice blue eyes.
I contemplate my handsome profile reflected in the window – it’s really no wonder that the other passengers keep turning to look at me. “Is that really him?” they ask each other, craning their necks for a better look. The susurration of their conversation should soothe, but I find the attention exquisitely painful. I am unusually sensitive to human emotions. I feel myself blush; the dash of colour on my artistic cheekbones only makes my features more appealing.
It’s understandable, though, the attention. In addition to my devastating physical beauty, I have just been awarded my sixth Nobel prize for literature, to go with my collection of Pulitzers, Peabodies and Hugos. I am told that I was the first ever debut novelist to win the Nobel prize, and the only person simultaneously to receive the Nobel prize, People’s Choice and Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice awards. I have not checked to see whether either is true for I am not motivated by acclaim. People are often moved to tears by my humility and lack of conceit.
I do not write for the bragging rights, I do not write for fame. I write not for the awards, not the money, not even the many sexual favours I receive from besotted Hollywood starlets and supermodels.
David notes that I have finished with my coffee and insists that he be allowed to buy me another from the buffet carriage. I am famed for my consumption of coffee: it is my one vice besides red wine, sex, cigarettes, methamphetamines, vodka, marijuana and the occasional hit of smack.
The coffee is quite dreadful but I of course thank him for his kindness – my physical grace is exceeded only by my social graces. He stares at me rapt. I find this hero worship a little tiresome, demeaning even. He asks me what I am listening to and begs that he be allowed to interrupt it to tell me once more just how much my work has meant to him.
“Your latest book,” he says, “it’s really something else.”
I smile indulgently and note the awkward pun, the weak attempt to wheedle his way into my social circle. I was there, I saw what he did; I was in the front row, is what he imagines he will say to my future biographers: he was real and authentic and in my time with him I myself became more tangible. But what David doesn’t know is that I am a loner, indeed it is an irony that I am so praised by critics and the public for subverting the cliché of the lone wolf. I have no social circle, and no real peers either.
This is not hubris you understand, but one of my many sources of pain; as I have said, I am unusually sensitive to the human condition.
“Seriously, the first time I read your work I realised how awful I am, how crude is my own writing. God, that first one was like someone dropping a toaster into your hot bath while you’re in the middle of an orgasm, it was that good!”
I do not really follow; I start at the start and write to the end. My work barely even needs editing. And once it has been published I never think of it again – I have never read a single one of my own books. The memories brought up by each and every word would probably kill me.
It would sadden me to know that I can never enjoy the fruits of my own labour, but I don’t think in such egotistical terms. It’s one of the personal qualities that is most often commented on by others.
In any case, I have very little time in which to enjoy myself. I am considered by other authors to be extremely prolific, publishing between 5 and 6 novels a year not including my nonfiction works. I am naturally athletic and my body more or less effortless, but I enjoy running double marathons twice a week. I don’t keep track of my times, because I’m not competitive. Professional distance runners have often complimented me on my technique, speed and endurance.
Everyone needs a hobby.
I am also driven to give my time and my money. Mothers stop me in the street to bless their children. My accountant is forever asking me to double-check his calculations; my lawyer relies on me to assess her legal opinions and modify them accordingly. It’s exhausting, but I am compelled to offer what I can.
I have founded a hospital for children with weak chins and girlish hands; I have started a charity for the rare furless mountain bear and raised their young as my own. I often weep for all the furless mountain bears that suffer and die within a month of birth because they have no fur and live high up in the Himalayas.
David can sense my kindly and forgiving nature; it’s the only way he can bring himself to spend time with me. Unlike me, poor David is riven with crushing self-doubt. He feels clumsy and oafish, because he is, but I would never dream of saying so. If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s condescension towards others.
I am aware of my incredible genetic gifts; I just prefer not to talk about them.
“Why don’t you get out of bed little Lord Fauntleroy; it’s 10:30am! And get a goddam job, asshole, go to business school, go to law school, just do something with yourself!” My mother denies that I am adopted, although she is willing to say that I was an accident and a mistake. She lights a cigarette and wanders off, muttering to herself “I don’t know where he gets it; his father isn’t this goddam lazy…”
David Sedaris is the writer of several essay collections, as well as a playwright and novelist. He shot to fame in 1992 with his essay The SantaLand Diaries, an account of his experiences working as a department store elf. This is included in Barrel Fever (1994).
His stories about his life and family are so heavily exaggerated that they should not be sold as nonfiction even though they are.
Needless to say, I believe every word of them.
Funny as a heart attack and on occasion emotional as an episode of Glee, Sedaris is acidic, sweet, self-deprecating, self-aggrandising and bitchy, but always sharp.
If you’ve not heard of him or read any of his work, do so. If you have and have and don’t like it, well as I always say: there’s just no hope for some people.
“I hate you’ she said to me one afternoon. ‘I really, really hate you.’ Call me sensitive, but I couldn’t help but take it personally.” (Me Talk Pretty One Day)