I had been saving the latest book from David Sedaris on my shelf for awhile, because I wanted to ‘treat’ myself to it when I was ready to enjoy my favourite author without interruptions. So when I managed to score myself a ticket to his Calgary show on February 27, you can imagine how delighted I was, and of course, planned to immerse myself in this (very big!) book around the same time he came to my city. I was about halfway through when I attended his event, and I brought it with me to read a couple of short sections while I eagerly awaited his appearance on stage. I’ve included the page he signed for me, which I adore. I mentioned that Anne Logan was my married name, which explains the inscription. I also told him that I used to plan literary events like this one, and he asked if I ever met some real assholes, and I replied that yes I did, and poets were by far the worst of them (sorry not sorry – I have some horrific stories to back up this claim).
A Carnival of Snackery, Dairies 2003-2020 is essentially a chronological look at his life from that time period, all in the form of his diaries. Most sections are brief, many are just a joke he heard from his book signing the night before, or a single observation from that week. I can guarantee that they are all hilarious, and I’ll include some quotes below for your pleasure. This time in his life covers a few major events, including the Trump years in the U.S., and the beginning of the pandemic. Sedaris has a new book coming in the spring and I know that one includes the death of his father, but at the very end of this one, his father contracts and survives Coronavirus, even though he’s 97. There is some overlap from his last book, The Best of Me, and I did recognize a joke or two from previous collections, but instead of being annoyed, I thought ‘this is just as funny the second or third time around as it was the first time I read it’. Despite these being taken directly from his diaries, the focus is typically on what he observes, we don’t often get stories from his personal life, but when we do, they are about his partner Hugh, or his family, which includes the also famous Amy Sedaris, who shows up in entertaining ways in this book. Every family member of his seems incredibly quirky, which makes for great fodder. But now that I’ve had the experience of meeting him in a signing line, I know David is actively mining his audience for humorous anecdotes too, and because people now expect this, many come with stories for him.
This could be a sign of my age, but I found his vocabulary quite ‘adult’ in nature, meaning he uses lots of profanity, even joking about murdering some people when they got on his nerves. It sounds terrible when I write about it like this, but within his stories, it loses some of its shock factor. Still, I did find myself taken aback at some of his jokes, but it never detracted from my overall experience of reading it – my theory is that he’s simply getting older and grumpier, which I think we are all destined to do.
I love his observational humour, and I’m also a big fan of Seinfeld, so I guess that explains it. Because Sedaris travels so extensively, we are treated to his opinions on just about everything:
“We took a cab yesterday morning to the Sheikh Zayed mosque, which is reportedly the biggest in the world and one of the few that allow non-Muslims to visit. Men can’t wear shorts or tank tops, but apparently they can wear T-shirts reading DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS. Women, on the other hand, have to dress like the Grim Reaper”.-p. 323 of A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris
I realize this could be offensive to some, and no doubt many people will find his writing offensive, but I can’t help but laugh at this stuff, even if I feel a bit naughty doing it. He also makes fun of himself plenty of times, which tends to balance things out:
“The reading was fine but often during the Q and A I’d hear something completely fucked up and realize it was coming out of my mouth. Which happens.”-p. 389 of A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris
He does include some serious observations, including a short section where him and his partner Hugh admit to each other that they were both raped at at least one point in their life, which according to the casual way they bring it up, seems to be (horrifically) common for men who are gay. And as mentioned in older books he’s released, one of his sisters commits suicide, and him and his siblings never seem to recover from their mother’s death years ago, so David has certainly had his share of sadness.
I’ll leave you with another quote, as his writing is, and will always be the true star of his books for me:
“Q and As followed all of this weekend’s BBC recording sessions, and at the one yesterday afternoon a woman asked how I feel when my values are challenged.
‘I’m not sure I understand the question,’ I told her.
‘For instance,’ she said, ‘whenever I fly in the U.S., some big fat American will take the spot next to me and completely spill over into my personal space.’
I knew what she was saying, but the only thing I hate more than being crowded out of my seat is listening to self-righteous thin people complaining about it, so I said, because it’s true, ‘It’s actually not a problem when you fly first class.'”-p. 492, A Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris
Ooooooh, I do like that last quote, and you probably knew I would!
I read his Christmas collection with the whisky glass on the cover and was surprised by how fairly racist it was, and I’ve never bounced back from that with his writing. 😬😬
Yes, I can get that vibe sometimes from his books unfortunately. Like, I don’t think he means it that way, but he is becoming less and less aware of his privilege, so his complaining can come off as very tone deaf.
Sedaris is such an astute observer of society and I appreciate that he’s not afraid to point out contradictions that exist, even when that isn’t necessarily going to settle comfortably for every reader. I’ve heard him be challenged in many an interview and he always has a balanced and fair approach, which is often self-deprecating and he seems to leave a space for others to have their own, differing experiences and opinions too. I’m really “behind” with reading his books but I feel like I’ve uptodate because I’ve heard and seen him read/speak (not in person though!) so many times. When the Theft volume of his diary was published, I’m sure I spent enough hours listening to parts of it in interviews that I really should have just read the damn thing. Heheh (LOVE that inscription. So strange, but amusing.)
right? It’s just so Sedaris. He has one story about how a few people have asked him to inscribe their book, and then commit to having his inscription tatooed on their body. THE PRESSURE!!!
This sounds like something I’d laugh at and feel uncomfortable about at the same time.
We just got this in at the library and I was surprised by how huge it is!
Are the entries taken from his real diary, or did he write it in the style of diary entries?
I think the entries are taken from his real diary. It’s sort of written with just the date, and then a paragraph underneath, so it’s really just snippets in his life.
I also feel “behind” in reading him, it’s been a while. I need to put him back on my list! I love the inscription!
I was quite excited, as you can tell by my blog 🙂