Best-selling author David Sedaris advised aspiring writers to move to foreign countries for inspiration during a Lisner Auditorium show Saturday night.
In his most recent collection of stories, “When You are Engulfed in Flames,” Sedaris uses candid humor to chronicle his decision to move to Tokyo to quit smoking.
“When you don’t speak the language, you just watch other people and do what they do,” said Sedaris, who was raised in North Carolina but now lives in France with his partner.
He also had general advice for young writers.
“This is a really good time to be a drug addict and sleep with a lot of people,” he said, adding, “You need to have some messed-up things you can incorporate.”
In front of a sold-out audience, Sedaris read from a new, unpublished story entitled “A Guy Walks into a Bar Car.”
The story followed Sedaris on the train back to New York from Chicago, where he was futilely trying to salvage his relationship with his boyfriend. On the train, Sedaris met Johnny, an unemployed, alcoholic gambler who had all of his arm hair recently burnt off in a chemical accident.
“I’ve always had an eye for ruined-looking men,” Sedaris said.
Sedaris also read from a story he is working on for The New Yorker magazine that describes what it is like to be on a book tour. Sedaris writes that he likes to buy little gifts for loyal fans who ask him for his autograph.
He said he was at Costco looking for ibuprofen to give to teens so they could think of him the next time they get a hangover. Not finding any, he said he picked out something else teens like: condoms.
Delving into politics, Sedaris read a story in which he remembers voting as a 19-year-old.
“As an art major, I identified myself as a maverick,” he said.
Instead of casting a vote for Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter, he wrote in for a pot-smoking candidate.
“Calling yourself a maverick is a sure sign you are not one,” Sedaris said.
The show was packed with adoring fans, many of whom laughed before Sedaris finished his jokes.
Anthony Sutter, a senior, said he enjoyed watching Sedaris pull a pencil out of his pocket during Saturday’s show to make revisions on the story drafts as he read them out loud.
He added, “You can’t go wrong when you make jokes about Costco.”