Known for his satirical, autobiographical stories, author-performer-playwright David Sedaris has captured the attention of countless readers since his “SantaLand Diaries” first aired on National Public Radio’sMorning Edition
in 1992. One of those readers is Kevin Kopelson, a professor at the University of Iowa, whose new book,Sedaris
, asks: “Why do we love Sedaris? And why, for that matter, does he seem to love us back?”
Kopelson answers these questions as only a professor of English can, through extensive analysis of the author’s works. For people who enjoy reading analyses of popular writers (I’m talking to the English professors and students who wish to become writers or professors), you will enjoy each chapter as it explores the people and events that shaped Sedaris as not only an incredible satirist but also as a human being. The scholastic types may also use this as a textbook to compare modern writers like Sedaris to much older ones. Kopelson explores just that through the comparisons made between Sedaris’s works to those of French novelist Marcel Proust.
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While this may introduce Proust to some of Sedaris’s readers, it may deter others from finishing the book. For example, in the chapter titled “Martin I,” the reader is reminded of (or introduced to) the short story “Blood Work,” where Sedaris was employed to clean apartments and recollects his “housecleaning role model.” Kopelson then makes the observation that Proust too writes about a similar figure, and includes a three-page excerpt for an example.
Although Sedaris is presented quite professionally, fans of Sedaris will be reminded of hilarious moments they may have forgotten from the numerous books written by him. And perhaps they’ll face the more serious side of Sedaris’s writing: humiliation, self-loathing and destructive relationships.
To those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading one of Sedaris’s works, I suggest you hold off on reading Sedaris and pick up Sedaris’s Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, or see him perform at Jones Hall on Thursday, October 25. You will appreciate Sedaris’s storytelling and satire more firsthand than reading the analysis of a writer who already analyzes himself. – Misty Rhodes
Sedaris, by Kevin Kopelson, University of Minnesota Press, $17.95