As I approached the ticket office, I had a bad feeling that I’d find a sold out sign taped to the glass.
I turned the corner and, surprise, there was a girl behind the glass. I recognized her from my freshman hall. “Only one ticket?” she asked. “Only if one’s still available,” I replied, half accepting my defeat. There was this zoo of people gathered by the doors as if they were clawing at each other to get in the auditorium. Sheesh.
The girl smiled back at me, though, and with a few clicks on the printer, she let the stub speak for itself. “I hope you don’t mind being close to the action.” I prefer it.
I beamed straight to my row, not first without noticing that my row was the only empty one in the house. I turned around once I took my seat and this is what I saw:
Zoellner’s Baker Hall is large. It’s the kind of space that fills up with nearly half the first-year class and their parents every year for convocation. It’s also the kind of space that, for a similarly-sized crowd, hosts David Sedaris for a night of keen observation, uproarious laughter, and downright naughty narratives.
Sedaris spent the night with us as part of Lehigh’s Notations Series, an initiative presented by the university’s Creative Writing Program to bring prominent figures in the community of global literary arts to our community. Just judging by the crowd, the show was a smashing success.
He emerged from stage left garbed in sequined culottes, a torn blazer, a baggy shirt, and an undersized tie. Before anything else, he broke down the outfit for us, twirled once to show it all off, and proclaimed he looked incredible. Incredible he was.
His plan for the evening was to read to us. Some of his old work, some of his new work, and some work that’s not his but he really enjoys. From the start, it didn’t have the same feel as any other reading.
There was this natural give-and-take with the crowd as if his stories changed or altered depending on the crowd’s reaction. As if our jeers, chuckles, ooh’s, ah’s and yuck’s were shaping his delivery and timing. As if it were a two-way conversation.
This is, I’ve realized, perhaps just a product of his enigmatic voice— slightly soprano and highly animated, yet soothing in a weird sort of way. It was nothing short of impressive the way he can captivate his listeners with his clean and tight prose, but his voice was just downright intoxicating. The mixture of both elements on stage was magic, plain and simple.
I had trouble writing down all the classic moments in between violent bursts of laughter and long bouts of self-examination. I did manage to get down a good number of my favorite lines, each one a testament to the beauty, truth, and wit of his craft. I’ve paraphrased them, with context if necessary, below:
- “An eye-patch alone does not a pirate make.”
- “Porn’s spell is broken when the person ceases to be an object.”
- “The grass would grow back to fill in the blanks. It always does.”
- Of his boat: “I’d name it Roe v. Wave… we’d be the first to perform abortions at sea.”
- “Hotter still, she had a sun visor on.”
- Of drug addiction: “Class can’t save you. [It] doesn’t care if you took piano lessons.”
- Of poverty: “I thought the best thing I could do [for the poor] was to stay away- you know, so as not to compete with them for their goods and services.”
- Of a conversation overheard between women: “My gynecologist told me the exact same thing!”
- Of daily journaling: “I write about the moment I feel most engaged with the world.”
- Of his book, Theft by Finding: “It’s a carnival of snackery.”
- Of his schedule: “Well, I’m mentally ill, so that keeps me pretty busy.”
His new book, Calypso, comes out May 28th.