Events — 12 December 2011
David Sedaris Reads from “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” at the Strand

It became a standing room only affair Friday night at Union Square’s Strand Bookstore, with the sold out crowd packed into the esteemed ‘Rare Book Room’ to listen to the musings of humorist and author David Sedaris. Reading from and signing copies of 2010′s “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary,” his latest collection of fable-like short stories, the writer captivated and tickled the audience for nearly an hour, often splicing in some never before printed rants from his personal diary, which read similarly to his typical, exaggerated often finding the ridiculous in the everyday style rants.

Despite being small in stature and undeniably soft spoken, Sedaris controlled the room from the moment his mouth opened. Throughout the event, which was part reading and part interactive Q&A, the laughter never seemed to cease- from the polite to the full on belly variety, equipped with the wiping away of humor tears. Sedaris comfortably stood behind the podium, fearlessly embracing subjects approaching the virtually taboo- abortion, homosexuality, religion, ethnicity, racism, and politics- all of which were touched upon as nothing seemed to be off-limits. And the crowd wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. His distaste of the overreliance of the American lexicon on the word ‘awesome’ was particularly amusing- his aversion has culminated much heights in fact that he charges readers a dollar for each use of the forbidden word when greeting him at his signing table. But fans in the house on this evening worried not about the small fine, and instead were simply content to be in the presence of such a regarded literary mind.

The Q&A portion of the evening was brief and served essentially as an exercise for his fans to effusively praise the author’s skills- of which Sedaris modestly appreciated and then subsequently brushed aside. The conversation was a bit revealing- touching on his favorite stories from the new book to read to his audiences, his comic prowess (he’s never been to a comedy club), and the fact that it took Sedaris upwards of seven years to complete his most recent collection. The often dark, yet fascinatingly ironic “Squirrel,” is a bit of a departure from his characteristic style and has been both heralded and panned by fans and critics alike. But the read is quick, the illustrations are eye-catching, and the material itself is downright interesting, with animals being given human characteristics- some hits, some misses, and some dark enough to induce outright cringes. The book is certainly not Sedaris’ finest, but is an adequate introduction to the author if you’re unfamiliar with his earlier, albeit much different works. With a book tour of over 40 cities, the Strand was just the latest stop on Sedaris’ ride. But in his short time in New York City, he left us with enough of his signature cynicism, bluntness, and kept us laughing long enough to warrant a lengthy post-reading signing line, to thank him for sharing some of his brilliance with us mortals.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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