Stage & Dance

Sedaris has the writer's voice

David Sedaris has six books out, and Scott Clark has heard every one of them. Yes, heard.

"I consume David Sedaris through audio books because I love the way he reads," says Clark, 42. "I like reading, but he's way better on my iPod than turning the pages."

How about in person?

Clark will be one of many Sedaris fans in the Singletary Center for the Arts on Saturday night to see the literary icon live.

If An Evening With David Sedaris is anything like his 2001 appearance at The Kentucky Theatre, it will be a group hug for one of the nation's most prominent practitioners of dark irony.

"I remember the warm reception he got," says Stacy Yelton, program director for WUKY-91.3 FM, where many people first heard the humorist read on This American Life and Morning Edition.

It was Sedaris' reading of The SantaLand Diaries on National Public Radio's Morning Edition in 1992 that first brought the Thurber Prize-winning humorist to national attention. The story recounts Sedaris' tenure as an elf in the Santa display at Macy's one Christmas.

In the story, readers and listeners experienced the humiliating world of mall elfdom, the sad spectacle of trying to make the department-store visit a highlight of families' holiday celebrations and an epiphany at discovering the spirit of the season among all the chaos.

"It takes a real talent to write satire and poke fun at yourself in a way that gets people to laugh with you and not at you," says Elle Cayabyab Gitlin, a Lexington consultant.

That sense of humor got Gitlin and her husband through something that sounds as if it could be fodder for a Sedaris story: a cross-country move from San Diego to Lexington.

"We were in a convertible with no air-conditioning, and it was the Fourth of July weekend," Gitlin says. "We were driving through Death Valley at high noon, and the only thing that kept us sane was his audiobooks on my iPod. There are specific stories I associate with places, like being on the Texas panhandle and listening to The Youth in Asia, about pets and the transference of love."

That story appears in Me Talk Pretty One Day, one of Sedaris' six story and essay collections; the others are Holidays on Ice, Naked, Barrel Fever, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and his latest, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

The titles are as off-kilter and occasionally disturbing as Sedaris' stories, which is a big part of what his fans love about him.

"In all his books, I like the contrasts he brings out, between generations, between gay and straight, between himself and Hugh," Clark says, referring to Sedaris' longtime partner, Hugh Hamrick.

Another person who frequently appears in Sedaris' works is his sister Amy, the actress and writer best known for her role in the film Strangers With Candy.

Clark says that in addition to the books, he enjoys Sedaris' writing for magazines including Esquire and The New Yorker, although he wishes Sedaris would try one other venue.

"I think he'd be a great blogger," says Clark, a Lexington Internet marketing consultant. "But he hates computers."

Thinking about Saturday night's performance, Gitlin starts talking about what Sedaris might do — like a music fan musing on a performance by her favorite band.

"I'd love to see him riff on Lexington a little bit," she says. "Maybe he'll switch up his reading and read some of his old stories.

"It'll be a great way to experience him."

Yelton says that although Sedaris appeals to a college-educated crowd — "people who live a life of the mind and have intellectual curiosity" — a lot of Sedaris' humor is drawn from mundane experiences and jobs, such as working as a Macy's elf or in a morgue.

"Obviously he's literate, obviously he's very bright," Yelton says. "Maybe less obviously, he's one of us."

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