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literature

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Sedaris, David (b. 1956)  
 
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The collection includes the essay "I Like Guys," in which Sedaris recalls the discovery of his homosexuality. The essay is both hilarious and genuinely moving, as it reveals his acute awareness of the shame of homosexuality and the pervasiveness of even as he also conveys his recognition of the absurdity of prejudice. "What are you," screams a summer camp counselor in "I Like Guys," "a bunch of goddamned faggots who can't make your beds?" Sedaris writes, "I giggled out loud at his stupidity. If anyone knew how to make a bed, it was a faggot."

In 1997, Sedaris also published Holiday on Ice, a collection of six holiday-themed essays that poke good-natured fun at the absurd traditions of the American holiday season. The audiobook version was nominated for an Audie (the highest audiobook honor). Publishers Weekly called the collection of Christmas stories "highly likable and spirited throughout." The book is dedicated to Ira Glass.

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Sedaris's next book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, was published in paperback and audiobook in 2000. Sedaris wrote the book in France over a period of seven months. Upon publication, it received nearly unanimous rave reviews and a fairly rapid rise to the top of several best-seller lists. It won Sedaris his first Lambda Literary Award.

When asked if Me Talk Pretty One Day was difficult to write, Sedaris said, "No. I mean, I'm always happy if I have, like, humiliating asshole things that I did. I think: Oh good, that's a good story. Because if you write about humiliating asshole things other people do it doesn't work as well. I mean, you can, but you can get away with it better if you talk about what an asshole you are. It's much easier. And I'm the biggest jerk in every one of those stories, but that's not faked."

Indeed, Sedaris is the butt of much of his humor. As Walter Kirn has observed, "Sedaris' usual target is himself--vulnerable, vain, afflicted with bad habits and perpetually defending his sacred right to self-destruct in peace. Compared with him, Woody Allen is a rock of psychological stability." Yet his self-revelations, delivered with a kind of wide-eyed innocence, actually incisively skewer broader American cultural pretensions and euphemisms. His self-absorption is not solipsism but a means of illuminating the human condition generally.

As Donna Seaman observed in Booklist, "A self-described 'smart-ass,' Sedaris is a gifted satirist with an uncanny knack for re-creating dialogue and revealing fantasies. And his targets are always worthy: people of wretched insensitivity and prejudice, be it sexual or racial. Brutally honest and brilliantly eloquent, Sedaris is positively tonic."

Director Wayne Wang bought the film rights to Me Talk Pretty One Day and planned to adapt four stories from the book for a film he planned to begin making in late 2001. However, after a conversation with his sister aroused concerns as to how his family might be portrayed on screen, Sedaris asked Wang to reconsider making a film based on the book and the project was subsequently dropped.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004) reached the top spot on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list on June 20, 2004. It garnered Sedaris his second Lambda Literary Award. The audiobook, read by Sedaris, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. Sedaris was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for his recording Live at Carnegie Hall that same year.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is a collection of twenty-two autobiographical essays. In "Hejira," Sedaris's father kicks him out of the house because of his homosexuality. In one of the most famous essays from this book, "Rooster at the Hitchin' Post," Sedaris lampoons his brother Paul's impending wedding.

Sedaris's latest book, When You are Engulfed in Flames (2008), was published by Little, Brown. Like his previous books, it is a collection of autobiographical essays, but these focus less on his family and more on his relationship with Hamrick.

In "Keeping Up," for example, Sedaris writes about how Hugh annoys him by walking too quickly. In "Old Faithful," Sedaris enlists Hugh to lance a boil on his back, which Hugh does without complaining. Sedaris tells him, "I know you'll do it again if I need you to. We're an aging monogamous couple, and this is all part of the bargain."

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