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Sedaris, David (b. 1956)  
page: 1  2  3  

The matter-of-factness of Sedaris's descriptions of his domestic life with Hamrick is characteristic of his straightforward presentation of his homosexuality throughout his work.

In "The Smoking Section," Sedaris describes his three-month stay in Japan where he went to quit smoking. He says he recommends this smoking cessation method, but adds that the trip cost $23,000. When asked why he went to Japan to quit smoking, Sedaris said, "The world was turned upside down so it made perfect sense that I couldn't smoke."

When Sedaris returned to the United States for a book tour promoting When You Are Engulfed in Flames, he found himself dealing with the legacy of James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces, who, after being exposed by critics, admitted to making up much of the content of his book, which was marketed as a memoir.

In the aftermath of Frey's exposure and admission, Alex Heard, the editorial director of Outside magazine, published an essay in The New Republic called "This American Lie" in which he accused Sedaris of fabricating many of the details in his essays. Heard did some "fact checking" and interviewed many of Sedaris's acquaintances, including his 83-year-old father Lou. He found, for example, that Mr. Mancini, Sedaris's junior high school guitar teacher, was not quite the "perfectly formed midget" that Sedaris depicted. What he discovered, Heard claims, is that Sedaris "exaggerates too much for a writer using the nonfiction label."

In response, Sedaris said that of course he exaggerates for effect, especially in dialogue. He also admitted that some of the details in his essays are obviously fictionalized, but added that a little embellishment in humor is "hardly the crime of the century."

In addition to writing essays, Sedaris is also a playwright. He and his sister, actress Amy Sedaris, have written several plays under the name "The Talent Family." These include Stump the Host (1993), Stitches (1994), The Little Frieda Mysteries (1997), and The Book of Liz (2002). All were produced and presented by Meryl Vladimer, artistic director of the Club Cabaret Theater at La MaMa Experimental Theater Company, and Ania A. Shapiro.

In 1995, David and Amy Sedaris won a "special citation" Obie Award for their play One Woman Shoe.

Another Talent Family work is Incident at Cobbler's Knob, which was presented and produced by David Rockwell at the Lincoln Center Festival in 1997. Hugh Hamrick designed the sets for those performances; he also directed The Book of Liz and Incident at Cobbler's Knob.

In 2001, Sedaris received the Thurber Prize for American Humor. In the same year, he was named "Humorist of the Year" by Time magazine.

David Sedaris lives a sheltered life with Hamrick. He has no cell phone, no caller ID on his land line, nor does he have, or want, an e-mail address. He does not drive. He says he stays away from the Internet because it is too time-consuming. He spends most of his time in Paris watching American movies.

He claims that he has only two friends in France, a journalist and a tour guide from Alabama. "Hugh has lots of friends," he says, "and I can sometimes use his friends."

Sedaris plans to continue writing essays and plays with his sister Amy. "It doesn't matter what your life was like, you can write about anything. It's just the writing of it that is the challenge," he says.

David Sedaris is certainly up to that challenge.

Victoria Shannon

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literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall

After Stonewall, gay male literature became focused as a movement, aided by the development of gay newspapers, magazines, and quarterlies and the founding of serious gay and lesbian bookstores.

literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Gay Male

In its first century of existence, gay male autobiography has become increasingly more open, frank, and unapologetic.

literature >> Overview:  Awards

The contemporary literary awards given specifically to honor glbtq books may be seen as an outgrowth of the modern American gay rights movement, so intertwined are they with the movement for equality.

literature >> Overview:  Comedy of Manners

The Comedy of Manners, which flourished on the Restoration stage, has been particularly amenable to twentieth-century gay male writers as a vehicle for social satire in both dramatic and nondramatic works.

arts >> Overview:  Comedy: Stand-Up, Gay Male

Beginning in the 1980s, a new generation of gay stand-up comics began to appear, telling jokes from the perspective of the gay insider.

literature >> Overview:  Contemporary Drama

Since Stonewall, gay and lesbian drama has flourished, especially in the United States.

literature >> Overview:  Humor

Like other minority groups, gay men and lesbians have had to develop both a particular sense of humor among themselves in order to make their marginal social status endurable and also a defensive awareness toward the rest of the world in order to disarm their adversaries with laughter.

literature >> Overview:  Journalism and Publishing

The gay and lesbian press is of prime importance in sustaining a frequently embattled minority and has been crucial in the development of a national mass movement for gay rights.

arts >> Overview:  Performance Art

Performance art has been embraced by queer artists as a means of challenging the very idea of traditional in art and culture.

arts >> Overview:  Radio

A product of the gay liberation movement spawned by the Stonewall rebellion, queer radio programming remains a significant source of entertainment and information for glbtq communities.


Heard, Alex. "This American Lie." The New Republic: (March 19, 2007).

Kirn, Walter. "Wry Slicer: Neurotic, Self-absorbed and Laugh-out-loud Funny, David Sedaris Takes Readers on a Wild Ride through His Improbable Life." CNN/TIME America's Best: Society and Culture (2001):

Lyall, Sarah. "What You Read is Real, Sort of." New York Times (June 8, 2008).

Pearson, Mike. "A Humorist's Viewpoint." Rocky Mountain News (June 20, 2008).

Reginato, James. "Butt Out: David Sedaris Has Kicked the Last of Bad Habits, But He Can Still be Wicked." (June 2008):

Richards, Linda. "Interview with David Sedaris." January Magazine (June 2000):

Shafer, Jack. "David Sedaris and His Defenders." Slate (April 11, 2007):

Seaman, Donna. "Review of Naked." Booklist (February 15, 1997).

Tyrangiel, Josh. "10 Questions for David Sedaris." Time (June 14, 2004):,9171,1101040621-650720,00.html


    Citation Information
    Author: Shannon, Victoria  
    Entry Title: Sedaris, David  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated August 15, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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