Thursday, May 21, 2009

On Reading, Part Three

David Sedaris: my inspiration

The first line I ever wrote on this blog was "I like to read." When I started this blog almost two years ago, my first two posts were titled "On Reading, Part One" and "On Reading, Part Two," respectively. Looking back at all my posts, I think "On Reading, Part Two" is one of my favorite posts I've ever written.

I think it's time I write Part Three.

When I took my break from blogging two weeks ago I picked up a copy of David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day and read through it. He's a remarkable writer. His stories range from simple family vacation trips involving sun tan competitions on the beach to realizing he's effectively the village idiot in a rural French town to his brief stint as an artist while high on crystal methamphetamine. For him it doesn't matter much what he's writing--he could be describing the taupe paint on an office wall and it'd be entertaining.

This links me back to a post I wrote awhile ago regarding famous authors and writers not always writing quality material. (I just spent about 45 minutes reading through past blog entries--I'm pleasantly surprised most are quite entertaining--but was unable to find the exact post for linking purposes.) The point is is that not everything David Sedaris has written is as well worded with subtle cynical humor; it takes time, editing, and lots of failure to do so.

Reading his essays on the various events and moments of his life made me take a look at my own life. While I don't think I'll ever compile the stories regarding my sister and I wearing our onesies and sliding down the stairs or the winter day my brother once decided to see how thick of an ice chunk he could break over my head (we got to 2" if I recall; my memory of that's a little hazy), I think the source material is there. My life hasn't been dull; very few lives are, really. It's all a matter of perspective. And maybe some creative exaggeration when storytelling.

What this all culminates to is that reading his works has helped to give me a new perspective on my own life. I'm a pretty strong cynic--something that I don't see as a bad thing; Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Shakespeare were all cynics--but that doesn't mean I can't be happy and enjoy life for the quirks and stories it provides. Think about it, when was the last time you read a story that went "we went on a family vacation and we all got along and all our plans worked out and it was fun"? No; the entertaining stories are the ones that involve your sister spilling her scrambled eggs in front of Minnie Mouse at Disneyland or shooting the only plastic arrow that goes with your favorite toy bow into the Grand Canyon (or whatever that massive gourge we visited when I was a kid was).

Things haven't been perfect in my family, but I love them. Without them, I'm afraid I'd be a fairly boring person.

2 comments:

--jeff * said...

i just downloaded his new book yesterday and have been listening to "this american life" every minute that i'm in my car.....

all of your above-mentioned memories would be decent blog-essay fodder, too.

Becky said...

Or there's the time my little brother was exploring the ocean and a the tide literally swept him off his feet and rubbed his face in the sand...on the same trip that your sister spilled her eggs in front of Minnie Mouse ;)
But you are right, ordinary things can be great stories told with enough detail and humor. I just finished reading all the "Little House" books and noticed the same thing--there is nothing terribly remarkable about the events; I'm sure lots of pioneer lived through the same and then some. But the way they are told is very enjoyable.