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Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

December 26, 2017

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It’s hard to describe Sedaris without resorting to clichés like “laugh-out-loud” and “funniest thing ever.” The dry, observational wit of his essay collections (Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls) is again on display here. What separates this book is the format—25 years of mostly short, largely unconnected diary entries that together tell the story of a writer finding success.  He covers the familiar topics of family, travel, casual drug use, relationships, poor money choices, neurosis, language study and random encounters with everyday odd-balls.

I was interested to see if he could pull off the diary format, many entries at only a few sentences, without it feeling like just a collection of random jokes or Deep Thoughts. He does, and the bigger story is interesting while the non sequiturs are wonderfully quirky.

Like of the woman in front of him at the grocery store checkout: “Had she paid with cash, I never would have noticed that she was missing an ear. It wasn’t gone entirely, but it wasn’t much.”

Or when he observes that nearly everyone he knows has a dead animal in their freezer.

Or when he slams down the phone in his apartment and breaks the ringer, so now at any given moment he just has to guess if someone is calling him.

Or while studying Italian: “Today the teacher called me a sadist. I tried to say that was like the pot calling the kettle black, but came out with something closer to ‘That is like a pan saying to a dark pan, “You are a pan!”’”

With comedy, I prefer audiobooks if they’re read by the author. I’d recommend Diaries as an audiobook. Sedaris’s delivery is perfect, honed by decades of appearances on NPR and live readings.

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