Friday, July 5, 2019

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris
"I’m always struck by how many times people get stabbed. It seems like it’s never just once or twice. It must be one of those activities that, once you get started, you just can’t stop."

Observations like the one above explain why David Sedaris moves so many copies. With Theft by Finding: Diaries, we get a look into his life and mind that swings from insightful and hilarious to horrible and horrifying. If you've read his essays, you won't be surprised. If not, buckle up, this gets weird!

The most useful bits, if you fancy putting pen to paper yourself, reside in the intro where he gives some journaling tips he's followed throughout his life. For instance, he says: "If nothing else, a diary teaches you what you're interested in." Which is a good point – whatever deep thoughts you start out jotting down may not really be what you long to focus on. However, the things you write about over and over is where your true interest lies.

As Sedaris wrote: "The point is to find out who you are and to be true to that person. Because so often you can’t." He goes on with further tips for keeping a diary, many of which I highlighted in my Kindle and noted: "OMG I love this!" So, price of admission right there, folks.

But you didn't come for the useful bits, you came for a peek behind the curtain. As always, Sedaris lets us in, warts and all. Through much of the early years of the diaries, he's dirt poor, working odd jobs, and frequently blasted on meth, alcohol and what have you. The places he lives and people he encounters in these times are often cruel, stupid and racist. At one point I noted: "What the f*** nightmare hellhole is Raleigh?!" To be fair, he had disturbing encounters with people in Chicago, too. I could relate hard to some experiences on public transport there. Things didn't improve when he moved to New York.

He spent a lot of time as a messed up, aimless, wannabe artist who made god-awful art. "I’m going to start saving dirty napkins at work," he wrote at one point. That tells you all you need to know about his art. I'm hoping that was for his artwork, anyway.

A look at the dark times he recounts: "In the park I bought dope. There was a bench nearby, so I sat down for awhile and took in the perfect fall day. Then I came home and carved the word failure into a pumpkin." That quote seemed to sum up his adult life up to that point.

An astute observation: "Other people's pain is uninteresting. My own, though, is spellbinding."

And also: "In my twenties and early thirties I was able to disguise my shallowness, but now it's written all over my shopping bags."

There were many, many passages I read out loud to my husband; they were too good not to share. This book proved far more interesting than I truly thought reading someone's diaries could be. You also see the moments his career (and life) first started to take off, how he met the love of his life, Hugh, and how he gradually morphed from someone painfully broke and counting pennies to someone with the bank to buy multiple homes. I don't mind at all that some of that money came from my pocket. Hopefully, you won't either.

I'll leave you with a final tip from Sedaris on keeping a diary that sums up his beautiful style:

"In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it's so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it."

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

View all my Goodreads reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment