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Sunday, April 18, 2010

David Sedaris Recommends...

Last night my husband and I went to see David Sedaris at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago.  He is in the midst of a 36 city tour in 36 days reading stories from his brand new book which will come out this Fall.

The evening promised all new material, and although I was skeptical at first, he did deliver. Along with reading 2 of the stories from the upcoming book, he also read an essay he is working on about people in airports. He also read from his recent "diary" entries and answered questions.

It was 2 hours of Sedaris on stage speaking to 3,000 of his fans, and judging by the laughs, we all had a great time.

And now I get to the reason (besides talking about the great night we had) for this post. He ended the night by giving a lesser known author the Sedaris stamp of approval.  He could not stop gushing about how much he loved, Irish Girl a collection of stories by Tim Johnston which just won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction.

What I liked about Sedaris' recommendation was how he talked about the book.  He used appeal to describe it.  He said that these are dark stories, but written with beautiful language.  He explained how in one story, a deaf girl is raped and in anther an art teacher, who sleeps with a student, has every bone in his fingers broken by the student's family. He also read us the first paragraph of the first story in which a construction crew digs up a human arm.

He goes on to stress, yes these are dark stories, but the way in which Johnston writes puts Sedaris in awe of Johnston's talents. His words may be saying truly awful things, but the words themselves are lyrical. Sedaris actually met the author the night before last in North Carolina. Sedaris mentioned that he was scared to meet Johnston, since his stories were so twisted. But after meeting him, and seeing how nice he was, Sedaris reminded himself that the man writes fiction.

My favorite line of his recommendation was, I would not want to meet one of Johnston's characters, but I am sure glad he thought them up. (paraphrasing)

It is nice to see established authors helping others that they truly like. We forget sometimes that writers themselves are voracious readers.  The most popular ones truly understand what people like to read (that's why they are so popular) and can articulate the appeal of a book very clearly. In other words, they speak our RA librarian language, and, since they have many more people's ear than do we, I am thankful for our shared goal.

Another best-selling author who works to promote new authors she honestly likes is Jennifer Weiner, who posted about Sarah Pekkanen's The Opposite of Me. Her post was then picked up by Reading Group Guides which wrote about the aftermath of Weiner's public recommendation. Pekkanen cracked the top 100 for all book sales!

One final note: if you have never seen David Sedaris read his work, the next best thing is to use this link to watch him on You Tube.

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