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David Sedaris took the stage at Royce Hall last Wednesday night impeccably dressed in an azure shirt and ebony tie for a sold out reading from Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, his newest collection of short stories, out in October. If you believe him, Sedaris wanted to label the stories fables—that is, until he realized that fables have morals. In fact, the stories he read from the collection recall Orwell’s Animal Farm: they take personification to a new level, offering insights about the human condition through satire. One is about a crazed rabbit that takes his role as security guard of an enclosed community of animals far too seriously. Another is about an Irish Setter whose wife cheats on him with the blood-thirsty dog across the street.
The expat, who recently moved to London from Paris, also talked about his experience traveling through the U.S. Even after all these years Sedaris is surprised by how Americans dress to travel. “It’s as though the person next to you on the plane was washing shoe polish off a pig and then said ‘Fuck this. I’m going to L.A.’” Sedaris read with a high-pitched voice, inflamed with indignation. When he read from his diary (a practice which got him discovered by Ira Glass in a Chicago club years ago) about fashion, politics, and medicine in a deep, sardonic tone, I laughed hysterically along with the crowd.
After the reading, I waited eagerly for two hours to get a book signed by the author. As I approached his table he said, “Well look at that dress! You look like a 20s flapper!” I laughed uneasily, wondering if he was complimenting me or not. Then I sighed. At least he didn’t take me for a swine-washer.