Friday, June 26, 2009

Meet and Greet

On Tuesday night, my friend L. and I joined approximately five hundred of our closest friends at Barnes & Noble for an in-store appearance by David Sedaris. He was delightful, self-effacing and brilliant--as expected--as he read some unpublished essays and diary entries and a lengthy New Yorker piece that he'd selected because it began at the very Costco just down the street from the bookstore.

I've been a swooning fan of his since several summers ago when I picked up Me Talk Pretty One Day on a whim, probably from one of those 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' tables at Borders that always send me home with thirty pounds of paperbacks. As soon as I finished it, I snapped up everything else he'd written and still eagerly await Amazon's automated emails that announce the release date of his next cryptically-titled essay collection.

David Sedaris has always put things in perspective for me. I don't mean that as a reflection on his work or in that off-putting preachy way like, say, the apron-wearing woman at Whole Foods who judges me because I don't buy organic bananas, her thoughts almost audible as she imagines a variety of orifices where I can shove my conventional (read: cheaper) variety. He's not like your co-worker who took a mission trip to Honduras purely in the hopes of making out with that earnest guy who wears a fringed vest but comes back wide-eyed and full of reasons why we all need to stop living in houses with walls.

No, the Sedaris-style perspective is entirely more damaging. See, sometimes I think I'm a good writer. Not necessarily good enough to earn an unflattering caricature on a Barnes & Noble bag but better than the average YouTube commenter. Then I read some knee-buckling turn of phrase in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and I realize how wrong I am. There are people who have shaped who I am (see: George Carlin, the Monty Python cast, Robyn Hitchcock) and then there are those I want to be. That, kids, is David Sedaris. And I mean that purely on a talent level, although he does have some very nice belts and we seem to enjoy the same painkillers. But still. I'm being professional here.

Anyway before he began, as the massive crowd filled the back part of the store, forcing everyone to decide whether they wanted to be mashed against a stranger's nether regions or feel the sharp corners of the Liberal Fascism display digging into their kidneys, I made the comment to L. that within the next decade, I wanted this. This being the throngs of people with numbered wristbands who would wait two hours to hand me a dog eared copy of my paperback. People who spent the duration of my remarks half listening and half trying to decide what exactly they'd say when they reached the folding table where I'd be signing things. People who were so desperate to get a glimpse of me that they were willing to stack up several copies of something with a newborn's face on it and use it as a step stool. People who would clutch their now-personalized copy of my latest release as they walked across the parking lot to Macaroni Grill critiquing my shoe selection and commenting that they thought I'd be taller.

L. looked at me like I'd said I wanted to do shots of molten lead. "Why would you want that?" she asked.

I shrugged. "Why wouldn't you?"

Unfortunately, the only thing standing between me and an adoring crowd is, um, writing a book. That, and talent. Sometimes I think assembling something with chapters would be a great idea. Other times I realize it would be impossible, since my attention span is shorter than most seizures. Considering that--just this morning--my waffles caught fire when I got bored by their two minute toasting time and excused myself to start arranging my dress shirts by sleeve length, the thought of banging out several hundred thousand words is daunting, if not damn near unbelievable.

The most unintentionally hilarious moment of the night came after David (yes, I call him David, especially in the conversations we have in my head) read the New Yorker piece that eventually veered onto the topic of book signings. He had several paragraphs that explained why he didn't allow photographs to be taken at his in-store events and, sure enough, B&N was blanketed with "NO PHOTOGRAPHS OR VIDEO" signs and equally prevalent wordless versions that had cameras with Xs through them, just in case some illiterates made their way to the book store.

Not two minutes after we'd all tucked our books under our arms so we could applaud the last sentence, a thin, fidgety man wearing a garish shirt pattern that looked like a sparrow had flown into his chest at an insanely high speed climbed to the second shelf of the Animal Husbandry section and held up his cell take a picture.

A uniformed police officer immediately confronted the guy by loudly asking, "Sir, were you aware that there's no photography allowed?"

Sparrow Shirt, who was standing under a NO PHOTOGRAPHS sign the size of a vending machine, shook his head dopily and said, "Nope, I didn't know that." Since he had both eyes and ears, I kind of hoped that the cop would call bullshit and beat him with the nearest available copy of A Beginners Guide to Falconry.

If you have the chance to catch David (again, I lead a rich fantasy life in which we'll be going to Chick-Fil-A together later) when he resumes his book tour in the fall, I highly recommend it. Despite the massive crowd, he graciously said that he wasn't leaving the store until everyone who wanted a book signed had gotten their chance. "If your number is higher than 100," he said, "Go see Up and come back when it's over, I'll still be here. Also, if you don't cry during that movie, you're dead inside."

I had to roll out for a friend's birthday dinner before I got my chance, but I'm pretty sure he would've hung around for the wild-eyed girl wearing wristband number 383. I'll stay till the store closes when it's my turn to sit behind the author's table.

I promise you that.


M. Brooks said...

Have you read "Lopsided" by Meredith Norton?

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

It's funny how dreams change. Ten years ago I was drunkenly watching MTV and they showed a live Oasis song in which Noel Gallagher looked on in amazement as a hundred thousand fans sang the words he had written a few years before. "Wow," I thought to myself, "One day that will be me. But with better songs, obviously."

Now my guitar lies in its case, untouched for the last few months, my book of self-penned songs gathering dust in my parents' house, and my dreams have moved on to being the same as yours. Maybe one day this half-finished novel on my hard-drive will become something actually made of paper with blurb on the cover and a dedication in the front and people will come to watch me read selected snippets in a bookstore and discuss my favourite moments of alliteration. Yes, I picture it in my head when I'm thinking of reasons to watch bad TV instead of actually working on it.

Probably in ten years' time my dreams will have moved on to something like giving a really well-received speech at an accounting conference.

erin said...


I tried to get into the book signing at my city, but couldn't even squeeze in the doors to the book store. I missed out on checking off a dude who ranks very highly on my Must Grope Before I Die list.

I'm a writer too, and I feel like I inadvertantly "stole" my writing voice from Bill Bryson. Yours is very authentically Sedaris-ish, and I think you should contemplate writing that book. Pull together some of your essays and git 'er done. Every person to whom I've ever forwarded your blog link has thanked me for introducing them to your writing.

Just sayin'...

Fionnuala said...

Seriously, J-Money, get out of my head: I LOVE LOVE LOVE Sedaris. And Erin's right - just do it. There's no way that if you put your mind to it a book of yours wouldn't be anything but great.

lacochran said...

I've seen Sedaris before and his delivery is worth the price of admission. As funny as his writing is, if you can get audio versions of him reading his own stuff, it's just that much better!

I believe he started by doing monologues/telling his stories one at a time. (Not by writing a whole book.) I've heard him on NPR or, more specifically, later, on This American Life. Much like Sarah Vowell.

You might consider submitting a story or two to NPR. See what venues fit. I know they take all kinds of submissions for "This I believe". Go for it! You're better than 90% of what's out there.

Ilana said...

I vacillate between wanting to spawn David Sedaris's offspring and just plain wanting to steal his identity. Either way, I ADORE HIM.

Can't get enough of his books, can't hope to even approach his level of talent, but still can't give up trying to at least be a pale imitation.

You are hilarious--not David hilarious, perhaps, but I definitely laughed out loud--so keep on trying for the book.

And have fun at Chick-Fil-A!

Mike said...

I hadn't heard of David before. For others like me -

*Akilah Sakai* said...

I have attention span issues as well ... plus I can't write for shit so I put that writer's cap away and slapped myself for even thinking I could. Now I collect dust (and frighten other bloggers with my mediocre blog).

You have a knack and methinks you should follow that dream. Left and right in Bloggerland I see a lot of "You can write - do it!" tossed around. Writing isn't for everyone, but in your case, you've got REAL talent. Mad skills!

Damn. Sorry you had to leave and missed getting that autograph.

Magda said...

Writing books and running marathons are not dissimilar. Well, *training* for marathons and writing books are not dissimilar. The finished draft and the finished marathon are also apt comparisons.

What am I saying? I don't know. This is probably why I'm still rewriting and my agent won't yet submit my manuscript. But seriously. Think 1,000 words at a time.

Rambling Rachel said...

I try to ignore the fact that people like you are better writers than me. That's the only way I can keep putting words on paper. I can only write as well as I can.

Looking forward to your book......

And taking David to Portillo's when he's in Chicago because in my mind, we're bff.

Rambling Rachel said...

I second lacochran--I want to hear you on This American Life.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm going to leave this post anonymously, because I'm pretty sure it's sacrilege and I'll immediately be burned at the stake by millions of angry David Sedaris fans. And don't get me wrong -I LOVE his stuff.

But if I had to choose between reading a blog by him and your blog, I'd choose you.

So write that book. Because I'm selfish and I think your writing rocks and I want more!

Rachel said...

De-lurking to say I agree with Anonymous. Your work is better in many ways than David's and I have a hard time not spraying the monitor with coffee when I read your blogs. Please do the world a favor and write more so nobody ever stumbles onto my crap.

The Fifth Yorkshireman said...

Actually, L. raises the exact question I've been wondering since discovering this blog. And, quite honestly, I suspect the real answer isn't "Why wouldn't you?" A lot of people have a ravenous desire for fame, but those people are generally of the type of troglodyte one sees on "reality" TV (which my limited exposure leads me to infer that you are not). Where does yours come from? You seem alternately to want to be really good and really famous (prefereably both), but I get the sense that you would rather be famous and mediocre than not famous and very talented. Clearly there are quite a few of us out there who find you entertaining; do you get no (or some, but only a little) measure of satisfaction from that fact alonge?

Scribe said...

I have the same kind of love-fest for Augusten Burroughs. I totally feel that if we ran into each other on the street, we'd catch each other's eye, smile and end up talking for hours over coffee. It's my dream, let me live it.

There are some authors that you just automatically get David and Augesten are like that. They can take a situation and explain it in a way that you feel like you had the initial thought and occurence, like you'd been there. You, J-Money are one of those people. I don't just flag anyone's blog and look back at it day after day longing for a new entry. You never disappoint. Do your fans a favour and accept that you know you are as great as we all know you are.

And write that book damn it. I'll be 386th in line for an autograph. You'd better wait or I'll put a hex on your dinosaur PJs. I will. I mean it.

Bootchez said...

"People who spent the duration of my remarks half listening and half trying to decide what exactly they'd say when they reached the folding table where I'd be signing things."

For what it's worth, I usually read your blog and the comments with exactly the same mindset, then move on without leaving a comment because I'm sure I'm inadequate. *sigh*

Michael said...

I, also, worship at the Temple of Sedaris. Like you, discovered him, then greedily consumed every morsel available.

But seriously, J-Money-you are selling yourself way, way short. Your stuff is absolutely book worthy-positively, unreservedly. You have buckets of talent.

I'll buy it, for sure. Consider this my mental preorder.

Kim said...

I also love David Sedaris, although I have to admit being too chicken to get in line to get my book signed because I was afraid he would ask me for an anecdote and I would be unable to come up with anything.

Also, don't sell yourself short. I always thought in college you'd end up being famous someday and I bet it is still in your future! If you wrote a book, I would totally buy it :)

LiLu said...

Love this.

And you just convinced me to see Up, as well. Or he did. Either way...

MonsteRawr said...

I totally felt the same way when I saw him do a reading in Atlanta. The way he writes about the most mundane of topics, and yet I can't help but hang on every word. Sickening.
Speaking of which, listen to yourself! You're totally selling yourself short. I told my husband the other day that you're my blogger in the rough. I look at other bloggers getting over 100 comments per post, and I think that you're just as, if not more, talented than they are. I really don't know how more people don't know about you. I adore your writing, and for the love of god don't stop! You just keep being your same fabulously funny and insightful self, and I'll be sweating and stuttering in front of you before you know it.

Maya said...

I'd totally buy a book about your past relationships. Written by you, I mean, not them (although that might also be something to consider?).

joy said...

I would buy your book (even if it overdrew my account. Which is pretty much guaranteed.) I would possibly play dumb while trying to take your picture on my cellphone. I'm not a stalker.

(p.s. Balky testifying on behalf of Miranda? I heart SVU marathons.)

Also - Did the 5th Yorkshireman not read the post about McOverdrawing your bank account? C'mon dude.

Carrie said...

David Sedaris captured me in "Me Talk Pretty One Day" with the chapter entitled, "Big Boy." I still cry from laughter after reading that chapter. I re-read it and read it out loud to anyone I can corner. It makes bringing up the topic of poop so much easier and less stressful. Anyway, I'm hooked on him too and am not suprised that you are.

I cannot wait until you are on your own book tour. You absolutely have the talent for it. Did you re-read your line in your last post: "...just in case some illiterates made their way to the book store." Ha! You cannot deny your hilarity and writing skills. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Talent is only evaluated in the eye of the beholder. You can write a book as others have already stated, not unlike the marathon training you already have done...Just with writing.

It's as much to do with who you know, who your publisher is, being in the right place, blah, blah, blah as it has anything to do with talent.

Being someone who has had similar dreams and, in particular, similar heroes (Carlin and Python are my FAVORITES EVER EVER too) I have learned that you will never BE them, be like them or any of that crap.

You can only be you. And from where I sit, another lurker who thinks the world of your writing (so I am a wee biased), you are already more than talented enough and this blog alone could be the template for YOUR first book.

Just be careful what you wish for, the money and respect you seek comes at a great personal price. I don't know why anyone would want to Become "famous" in this day and age...but to each their own...You have the tools, skillz and you make a bunch of us internerds laugh with every post!

Reluctant Runner said...

Your writing actually reminds me of David Sedaris and I'm also a huge fan of his. Write the book!

Dana said...

Try reading Jincy Willet, if you haven't already. Her writing strikes some of the same notes as does DS. In fact, I think DS wrote a forward for one of her books.

theloosemoose said...

You're honest-to-lil'-baby-Jebus as talented as Sedaris. And I LOVE Sedaris. Compile these here blog posts and send them out, already!!

Phil said...

I got to meet David (I call him David too) last summer, and after being an avid fan myself for four or five years running, I was all antsy to meet him. It was quite possibly one of the greatest moments of life ever.

If you get to see him again, try to get there early... he frequently arrives early himself to get a head-start on signing books, so you can catch him before he does his readings.

Oh, and I'll totally come to one of your book signings, no question.

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Alana said...

It's funny that you mention David Sedaris as the person you want to be like professionally, because I just discovered your blog yesterday and, as I've been reading backwards through the entries, I actually was thinking how much your writing style compared to The Great Sedaris. Also, you're hilarious and I wish you lived in Denver so we could be best friends. (But not in a weird stalker-y sort of way.)