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Wednesday, November 17,2010

Signing up a storm

David Sedaris treats fans to ’Squirrel’ stories

by Paul Wozniak
During the Monday night reading of his latest work "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk," author David Sedaris quipped that a woman in California complained to him about an unfinished story he read that she found "hostile" and "made her want to vomit."

"I don’t like people like that," he commented to a smiling, sympathetic audience packed around the fireplace at the Eastwood Schuler Books & Music.


Undeterred by his previous encounter, he went on to read the "offensive" story about two flies and their conversation about "name-dropping" over a regurgitated meal.


However, perversions and grotesque details never make up the heart of his stories. Nor do they reflect the character of a man who, according to Schuler’s promotions coordinator Whitney Spotts’ introduction of Sedaris, sends every person working at each book-signing event a handwritten thank-you note.


Sedaris read the title story from his "bestiary," a heartbreaking tale of the irrational fear of embarrassment and of true love let go. After the audible sniffling "aww" from the audience, Sedaris brightened the mood by reading from his journal, sharing highlights of encounters with fans and some choice jokes he had collected from them.


There was no perceived hostility in the Eastwood audience, as Sedaris received some of his most uproarious response from his dirtiest jokes.


Questions from the audience ranged from why he chose to write the bestiary to suggestions for aspiring writers. He suggested writers follow his example by writing every day and reading voraciously to develop a set of standards.


When discussing the details of the just-released audio version of the book, the audience seemed unfamiliar with the actors chosen to narrate certain stories — Elaine Stritch, Sian Phillips, Dylan Baker — prompting one person to ask why Sedaris’ sister Amy was not on his "wish list" of readers. Sedaris responded that Amy was better at memorizing lines than she was at reading from the page.


"If my wish list had 200 people, Amy would not be on it," he explained, dryly.


The event barely passed the half-hour mark before Sedaris began the book signing line, but those who were present felt elated by the evening. Too bad Sedaris can not fulfill his audience’s wishes next time by embarking on an in-home "dinner party tour."


At 10:45 p.m., nearly six hours after the reading began, Sedaris was about to greet his 500th fan — and there were still many more waiting.

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