American writer and humorist David Sedaris manages to find humour in the perversity of everyday life.
His newest book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, is a series of autobiographical tales and essays that explore subjects from the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra to the joys of a colonoscopy.
Sedaris first gained popularity in the early 1990s with darkly self-deprecating radio essays like the SantaLand Diaries, which aired on National Public Radio, as a frequent contributor to Public Radio International's series This American Life and as a contributor to The New Yorker magazine.
His previous short story collections When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Me Talk Pretty One Day have also been bestsellers.
"I feel like my job is to make something out of nothing," Sedaris, who is touring North America with his new book, said in an interview with CBC’s Q cultural affairs show.
"The things that happen to me — I’ve never been kidnapped, I’ve never even driven a car — big things don’t happen to me, so my job is to make the most out of the small things," he added, demonstrating the wry wit for which he is known.
Explores tortuous father-son relationship
Much of Sedaris' writing centres on his growing up gay in the 1960s, first in New York and later in Raleigh, S.C. He attributes his writing, in part, to the fact that he never learned to drive. "If I’d learned to drive I would have got out of there at 16," he said.
Many stories in Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls explore the tortuous relationship Sedaris has with his father.
"When I look back on it, I think my dad saw he had this kid and this kid was such a nerd and such a loser. I think he worried that if I kept on the track that I was on, that I would never leave his basement," he told Q.
Sedaris said he got on well with his mother, but his father was always trying to toughen him up with criticism. He jokes that he grew up "before the invention of self-esteem."
"I always worked in contravention to my dad. That’s what got me out of bed every morning — thinking 'I’ll show you.'"
Sedaris talked to Q about why he hates having his picture taken, his experience signing books at a Canadian Costco store and how he uses his diary.