David Sedaris Book – Rainy Day Books, Kansas City

The clusters of people huddled outside in the parking lot of Rainy Day Books, a tiny independent bookstore in the Kansas City metro area, seemed rather happy regardless of their less than ideal setting. Most of them have sprawled out where ever they can stretch, reading the David Sedaris books that they’ve purchased in order to enter the event. They’re here for a number of reasons: to hear Sedaris read from his latest novel; When You Are Engulfed In Flames; receive an autographed copy of one of his books; or even meet and converse with the man himself.

Sitting behind a closed door, with a sheet of glass between himself and those who had come to see him speak, due to the extremely large number in attendance, Sedaris began the evening by reading “It’s Catching,” the first story from When You Are Engulfed In Flames. The happenings of the story finds Sedaris surrounded by a collection of conversations over a Christmas gathering. The focus seems to highlight how quirky the conversations themselves are. The plots of these discussions range from kids being startled to death, how and where to catch germs and disease, what worms do and eat in the human body, and how said worms changed boyfriend Hugh’s and his mother’s life. Regardless of the fact that these subject approach of being heavy and disgusting, Sedaris manages to incorporate his signature humor into the story. Laughter rumbles throughout the crowd as they seemingly forget that they’re standing outside in the muggy 80 degree Kansas heat.

Following “It’s Catching,” Sedaris introduced the crowd to another character in his book, Helen. Helen was a short, Italian woman whom David and Hugh met upon moving to New York. Sedaris decided to capture Helen is his book because, “If I write about someone, I could make people love them as much as I do. People later asked why I wrote about such a horrible woman, but I just thought she was funny.”

The story correctly captures this humor as David stumbles through the influence Helen had on his life and the mischief she got him into. He mentions his search for her teeth in the front yard scrubs, his reaction to hearing a seventy-something drop words like “fuck” and “twat,” and having to mail her stool sample in a envelope that included holiday stamps and a hand written message of Christmas cheer. Above all however, Helen is a prime example of David’s ability to pen a full and relatable character, complete with oddities and annoying habits. By the end of the reading, Helen feels more a part of your family, than someone you’ve never met.

Shaking things up a bit, Sedaris took a few moments to read from his journal. These tiny captures of David’s life are delightfully humorous and insightful into the workings of the author’s mind. While they are simply general conversations and random thoughts scribbled down for safe keeping, they honestly are also gold yet to be discovered. From skeleton’s mocking him in Wal-Mart and the reasons and ways that flight attendants fart, the clutter in Sedaris’ head is his own.

For that, we are blessed.

*Photo by Anne Fishbein


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