David Sedaris’ chapter titled, “Repeat After Me,” discussed the form of story telling. Even more specifically, he touched on the importance of pauses just as Mark Twain does in “How To Tell A Story.” Sedaris writes, “Details were carefully chosen and the pace built gradually, punctuated by a series of well-timed pauses,” (154). Twain agrees wholeheartedly that stories are the funniest when the delivery is just right. Twain discusses different features of the art of story telling humor and he includes the pause. He states, “The pause is an exceedingly important feature in any kind of story, and a frequently recurring feature, too. It is a dainty thing, and delicate, and also uncertain and treacherous, for it must be exactly the right length- no more and no less- or it fails of its purpose and makes trouble,” (19). This is exactly what Sedaris touches on when he hears his sister’s story and he goes even further with the idea of delivery but wanting to craft his family’s stories into funny episodes. He tells his sister, “The story’s really funny, and, I mean, it’s not like you’re going to do anything with it,” (155). This is a prime example of how Sedaris as a writer, crafts the structure of the sharing in order to convey the best reading.
Also, the “well-timed pauses,” made an impact when our class listened to Sedaris read an excerpt from his book. The pauses allowed for the contrast between humor and pain to be heightened. In listening to the reading, the delivery of the pauses actually stopped the laughter because the pain became highlighted. It was not as easy to brush over the pain as it is when reading from the text. The pauses in the text may get lost in between the humorous remarks. I’m able to read from one funny episode to the next and not dwell on the actual hurt Sedaris feels. By the time it would sink in, I’m already halfway through his next episode. In listening to the reading, there is no escaping the brief silence where Sedaris is vulnerable to the readers and the laughter stops to feel the sting.
The well-timed pause works to heighten the humor or the hurt. It is effective in either way.