Wednesday, February 24, 2010

“A Poor Typist Stuck in the Middle”

David Sedaris may be a hard author to categorize on bookstore shelves, but no matter what percentage of his works are non-fiction and others exaggeration; he is ultimately writing about the truth of the world, of his life, and of his family, as he sees it. Who are we to try to compartmentalize his perspective? Furthermore, I would like to see his works as a triumph not only of modern humor but also of voice. I am not sure if there are any other contemporary writers that I have read recently who have such a distinct voice as Sedaris deftly exhibits page after page. We are not only welcome to take a look at his life through a fishbowl, but we are also seeing everything difinitively through his eyes.

This fact can be a great revelatory experience for the reader, but a little more problematic for the people who serve as the subject matter in the book. When you consider just how intimately we get to know his family, you can’t but help to think about how exposed those around him are in his works. He writes, “In order to sleep at night, I have to remove myself from the equation, pretending that the people I love expressly choose to expose themselves. Amy breaks up with a boyfriend and sends out a press release. Paul regularly discusses his bowel movements on daytime talks shows. I’m not the conduit, but just a poor typist stuck in the middle. It’s a delusion much harder to maintain when a family member is actually in the audience” (Sedaris, 150).

In class we started to explore non-fiction as opposed to fiction. I think that with fiction there is less of a risk for the writer because he doesn’t have to explain his writing to the characters. Sedaris, however, has to face his family and the consequences of revealing their darkest secrets to millions of eager readers.

In this book we learn of alcholism, unhappy marriages, and the condition of the run-down apartment of his youngest sister Tiffany. Sedaris is certainly a part of his family but his writing forces him to occupy a strange space of both an insider with all of the information to share, as well as an outsider who must edit and fasten his family’s history into a packaged product for us to read. There is certainly a question of ownership in this work that is up for debate. Should we be let in on the secret or are we the uninvited guest at the family reunion?

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