Famed humor writer and essayist David Sedaris performed at Lisner Auditorium Monday, sharing his views on morals, Proposition 8 and chipmunks.
Sedaris, whose last five published essay collections have become New York Times Best Sellers, showcased his latest book, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary,” during the sold-out performance.
In the illustrated book, Sedaris adds a twist to his typical social commentary by personifying fictional animals.
“I was going to call them fables, but fables have morals, and I don’t always,” said Sedaris before reading an excerpt for the audience.
Fans may not be familiar with Sedaris’ fiction, but the writer said the imagery that animals evoke gives the stories a purpose readers will recognize.
“I wanted to start writing fiction again, and this seemed like a good way to get into it,” Sedaris told The Hatchet. “Everyone knows what a squirrel or a chipmunk looks like, so you can just jump right into the story.”
Sedaris also played a recording of an audiobook portion of “Squirrel Meets Chipmunk.” Despite this unusual practice for a live show, many fans are not only accustomed to reading Sedaris’ witty stories, but also hearing it.
“I used to always listen to the recordings in the car with my dad, and that’s how I got to know [Sedaris],” freshman Alex Toltzis said.
Sedaris, who also frequently reads his stories on the NPR show “This American Life,” stressed to the audience that books should function as both an audio and visual experience.
“A lot of people feel apologetic and say, ‘I don’t read your books, I listen to them.’ I don’t care,” Sedaris said. “When you read the book, you enter the world of the book. But when you listen to a book, it enters your world.”
Adding politics to his act, Sedaris read his latest satirical essay, called “I Break for Traditional Marriage,” told from the perspective of a man outraged over a judge ruling California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The fictional character is so disturbed by the idea of same-sex marriage that he murders his wife and daughter.
“The traditional marriage story was very biting. When he’s relating satire, he never tips his hand or breaks character,” senior Derek Sarshad said.
Sedaris explained that although his stories of political characters and protestors fare better with a D.C. audience, he still tries to include a new political satire on every tour.
“That’s the kind of thing I could never save and publish later because it wouldn’t be timely politically. People would say, ‘Bob Dole? He’s trying to get a laugh out of Bob Dole?'” Sedaris told The Hatchet.
This year, Sedaris – who is openly gay and often writes about his experience of growing up as a “prissy” boy in the South – thought satirizing the opposition of Proposition 8 was a perfect fit in a “changing world.”
“I sometimes think I’m not gay enough, but I don’t think it’s a big deal to most people here. I think the way I write about my life doesn’t seem totally different,” Sedaris said. “My dad has said to me, ‘Why do you have to talk about your boyfriend when you’re up there?’ I say, ‘You’re the only one who cares. Nobody else gives a fuck.'”