Thursday, August 24, 2017
Review: THEFT BY FINDING, by David Sedaris
Oh how I love David Sedaris's memoirs. Way back when I remember splurging on a hardcover edition of Holidays on Ice, because I just had a feeling it would speak to me. And it did.
Anyway after reading his books steadily for the past 18-odd years I've decided the best way to enjoy him is on audio- he is a great narrator of his own work and really adds a whole new dimension with his expressions and voice. Thus even though I did run out and buy a hardcover of Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 as soon as it came out, I also jumped on a free audio version that Libro.fm offered to booksellers. What a treat.
At the very beginning Sedaris informs, or warns, us that this book is a very selective and incomplete edition of his diaries, which are far more voluminous than even this weighty tome would suggest. But what remains is vastly entertaining, bittersweet at times, at times obscene, crazy, or just plain silly and weird. It's also mundane, tender, jumpy, and intimate, and all these contradictory things at once. The narrative feels disconnected at times, since there is no real narrative, just a selection of events over time that give the reader some insight into Sedaris's priorities when it comes to observation, as well as his creative process and eye for detail. Some characters stand out; his relationship with his siblings always sits front and center, as well as his parents and his partner Hugh, who comes on to the scene about midway through this volume. Sedaris is cagey and economical about what he includes about the relationship; they meet, meet again, and the next we hear they are moving in together. It's not a lot but the particulars he chooses are enough to give a sense. I don't know why I'm particularly fascinated with this aspect of his life, but there you go.
Sedaris's voice joined me for a couple of weeks of bus rides and walks and he is a great companion. He says in the introduction that he doesn't expect readers to listen all at once, but "dip in and out" and this is just about what I did, listening for a few minutes here and there as I did errands, traveled around the city or relaxed at home or worked on crafts. I listened to quite a bit of it in the car, as my husband and I drove to and from Washington, D.C., two weekends ago. But for the most part I consumed the book in stolen moments.
And this approach worked well for a diary, written as it is in fits and spurts and crystallizing individual moments in time. Readers will travel with Sedaris all over the United States, to England, France and elsewhere, and from his early days of housecleaning and fruit picking through to his success as a writer. You'll get to know his family, especially his sisters and parents, and of course Hugh. You'll listen to experience his first successes and occasional struggles, like learning French or losing his cat Neil. Poor Neil.
Theft by Finding isn't laugh-out-loud funny like his polished memoir writing but it's so very enjoyable in a more low-key way. I could listen to him all day.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary audio copy from Libro.fm.