David Sedaris on Fresh Air

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Last Summer, when our vacation plans fell through, my wife and I decided to just hop in the car and drive as far north as we could up Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast. Before we left, my wife bought the audiobook version of David Sedaris’ “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” on iTunes. We listened to the entire book as we meandered our way through San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Francisco, Marin County, Mendocino, all the way up to Eureka, and on through to Portland. We listened to it a second time as we blitzkrieged down Interstate 5 back to Los Angeles in a day-and-a-half. I think we only had a dozen or so near-crashes due to uncontrollable laughter.

David Sedaris’ stories are for listening. They are meant to be read aloud, preferably by Sedaris, himself, in his trademark sardonic lisp. And I can’t help it; whenever I hear him recite a sarcastic line by one of his family members, no matter who it is, I always picture his sister Amy as “Jerri” from Strangers With Candy.

Here’s an interview with David Sedaris from last night’s Fresh Air. There is also a bonus excerpt from his new book, “When You Are Engulfed In Flames,” a story entitled, “It’s Catching.”

“A few weeks later, the same thing happened to Maw Hamrick, which is what I call Hugh’s mother, Joan. Her worm was a bit shorter than her son’s, not that the size really matters. If I was a child and saw something creeping out of a hole in my mother’s leg, I would march to the nearest orphanage and put myself up for adoption. I would burn all pictures of her, destroy anything she had ever given me, and start all over because that is simply disgusting. A dad can be crawling with parasites and somehow it’s OK, but on a mom, or any woman, really, it’s unforgivable.”

I’d rate the laugh-out-loud factor for this at about a three. Good stuff.

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Norman Mailer on Fresh Air

I ran across this 1991 interview of Norman Mailer on Fresh Air. Very quickly into the interview, Mailer touches briefly upon the phenomenon of the unliterate when he imagines the future of the novel in America. In 50 years, he figures, people may read one book a year and regard it as a “special and peculiar” activity. Seventeen years later, we might not be too far away from Mailer’s vision.

Terry Gross then throws Mailer an alley-oop by asking where he thinks he stands among the great American writers of his time. Mailer answers matter-of-factly, “I’m not going to name anyone but there are maybe 3-4 of us who may last and I’m probably one of them.” Ha. Classic Mailer bravado. Yet, again, he may be right.

Returning to the idea of the unliterate, I’ve been struggling to solidify a clear purpose for this blog, which may be a good thing. Given that this endeavor is still in its infancy, I would hope that I’d feel the urge to revise the “About” page continually with each new post.

Here’s a notion. If people really did only read one book a year, shouldn’t that book, at the very least, provide a “special and peculiar” experience, and not just something that everyone else reading?

(picture from AFP/Getty Images)

Philip Roth on NPR’s Fresh Air

I generally do not like interviews. I’ll confess. I usually turn off the TV and go to bed right after the second segment of the Daily Show, before the interview because it is so excruciating to watch.

I love Terry Gross. She is a naturally gifted interviewer. Fresh Air is often playing in the background while I work.

Here is a link to one of my favorite Fresh Air interview subjects: Philip Roth. It is a special show commemorating Roth’s 75th birthday, featuring highlights from previous interviews with Roth, where he shares insights on many of his major literary themes, such as sexuality, the Jewish-American experience, and aging.

From NPR.org:

Commemorating Philip Roth’s 75th Birthday.