From the essay "Ashes": "My mother called to say she had cancer. She'd gone to a doctor complaining about a ringing in her ear, and the resulting tests revealed a substantial tumor in her lung. 'They tell me it's the size of a lemon,' she said. '... I think they describe it in terms of fruit so as not to scare you, but come on, who wants a lemon in their lung? They're hoping to catch it before it becomes a peach or a grapefruit, but who knows?... I realize it's my own fault. I'm just sorry your father's still around to remind me of that fact every 15 goddamned seconds.' "
Sedaris's subversive take on subjects that are too often weighted with talk-show sentimentality is the writer's trademark and one of the reasons for his success. By phone from his New York apartment, he chats about writing for Esquire and the BBC and about a recent seven-figure book deal. But things weren't always so cushy. When he arrived in New York, he had to clean apartments to support his writing. "I had a pimp," Sedaris jokes. "He would charge 15 bucks an hour. He'd get five and I would get ten."
It wasn't until Sedaris's NPR reading about being a Christmas elf for Macy's that he was able to give up the mop and bucket. He's since become a regular on the radio show, taking up a new subject each week. "The theme I'm working on right now is 'Music Lessons.' My father, he got it in his head that he wanted my sisters and brother and I to form a jazz sextet. And so he signed me up for guitar in the mall. The teacher was a midget. I was 12 years old at the time, and he came up to my waist. So I'm writing about that."
-- Lee Williams
David Sedaris reads from Naked at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 11. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 523-0701. Free.