David Sedaris: The Secret to Getting Along with Your Family
DS: I just finished the George Saunders book Tenth of December. Right now, I'm reading Aleksandar Hemon's essay collection, The Book of My Lives. He grew up in Sarajevo and is writing about his life as a writer in the middle of a war. As I'm reading it, I'm thinking, "Oh...don't end." The book I'm going to do on the next tour is a book on North Korea by Barbara Demick called Nothing to Envy.
LH: Is there one book you return to again and again when you really want to escape?
DS: I go back to Richard Yates' The Easter Parade. Books that follow the entire course of somebody's life are always so sad. The novel starts out when two sisters are just 7 and 8, and then follows them through their mid-50s, which was old when the book was written. One of the sisters is not married. We don't use the term "old maid" anymore, but when the book came out, being that age without children and a man in your life was such a tragedy. Drinking plays a huge role—one of the sisters dies of alcoholism. I think it's easier to conceive of our own death than of old age. I turn down the pages of that book, and I mark it up and make notations in the margins. The older I get, the more things I find to marvel at.
LH: Is there a new story you're working on now?
DS: I just finished a story, and I'm not sure about it. I'm getting ready to go on this long tour, so I can read it out loud and then go back and rewrite it. The story is in there. It's about a guest room. All my life I wanted a guest room—just a room that's set up all the time for company. I finally have one. I think a lot of people get them when they're around my age because their children leave home. I got one because, all of a sudden, I lucked out and got a bigger house. I love that it's a guest room and not an office or anything else. When people come to visit, I don't have to say, "Oh, I have to get the craft table out of there." So I just started writing about guest rooms and [how] when company comes, because of the guest room, I don't have to think, "Who are these people?" Like Hugh's sister. I walked into the living room once, and she said to her mother, "Don't you just love the feel of an iguana?" I wanted to say, "Pack your things and get out of this house!" But now, I don't have to be responsible for them, because they're in the guest room!
David Sedaris is the author of eight books, including Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls.
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