Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

David Sedaris Ruined My Blog

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Most of my blogging friends think of me as a sophisticated bon vivant, a modern-day Oscar Wilde, known for his wit and clever wordplay.  So when a fellow blogger recently asked me for my opinion of David Sedaris, one of America’s best known humorists, I immediately said, “He’s excellent.”  This is not the first time that I’ve given someone my whole-hearted approval of a writer that I’ve never read, heard, or seen.   Have you read Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow?  It’s an amazing novel!  I never read it.

Today, I was driving past my local Barnes and Noble when I said to myself, “Maybe today’s a good day to finally read some David Sedaris.”  There were four reasons I decided to read him today:

1)  I have some socializing planned in the near future.  What if David Sedaris comes up in a conversation and I have to say something smart?

2)  I’m interested in impressing women, and I know women like it when a man is “sensitive” enough to enjoy reading a “gay writer.”

3)  I know David Sedaris writes essays, which are usually short and easy to read, so his writing won’t take too much time away from “Dancing with the Stars.”

4)  I could  read the book right in Barnes and Noble and save myself fifteen bucks!

I entered the bookstore and found David Sedaris right in the “Funny Gay Essayists” section.  There were a number of his books there, but I chose “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” mostly because the light green jacket cover matched the color of the Zen Green Tea that I had just bought at the in-store cafe.  I settled down at a table and started to read the book.

It was a mistake to read David Sedaris.

The first story, Go Carolina, was about Mr. Sedaris’ experience in his elementary school’s Speech Therapy Lab, which he was forced to attend because he lisped.

“Shit,” I said to myself, “He’s screwing up one of my stories that I was saving to put on my blog!”

When I was in elementary school, I lisped.  My friend, Rob, and I used to go visit Mr. Fox, the speech teacher.  We would repeat the same ridiculous statements over and over:

“Silly Sally sat by the seashore and something something something…”

Sucked Some Sailor’s Salami.  Or something like that.

When I went to sleepaway camp, I was nicknamed “Juice,” because at breakfast, I would lisp, “Please pass the juith.”  Even when the lisp disappeared (thanks to orthodontal work), I still was called “Juice.”  I loved my nickname.  Recently, I got an email from someone I haven’t seen since I was thirteen years old.  He went to camp with me and found me via my blog.   He is currently a therapist with two children.   He still called me “Juice.”

So what can I do with my lisping story now?  I certainly can’t write a blog post about my speech class.   I just know some jerk is going to write in the comments, “Hey, did you rip that idea off of David Sedaris?”  Or someone will send me an email, “What’s the matter, Neil?   So desperate for blog ideas that you’re stealing stuff hoping we don’t notice?  Well, I noticed!  And I’m taking your off my blogroll.  There’s no place for cheats and crooks on my site.  I’m disgusted with you.  I spit at my monitor — and at your second-rate blog.”

You can imagine how upset I was, sitting there in Barnes and Noble.   A great personal story, gone to waste.

I moved on to the second essay in the book, titled, “Giant Dream, Midget Abilities.”  In this essay, Sedaris’ father, a jazz aficionado, pushes his children into learning musical instruments.  David Sedaris is pushed into guitar lessons, but he isn’t very interested in the guitar.

“This Sedaris guy is a real bitch.” I said to myself.  “He’s screwing up another one of my great stories!”

When I  was a kid, my father pushed me (and my friend, Rob, again) into taking guitar lessons.  I found learning to play guitar incredibly boring.  My father kept on telling me that when I got to college, I would appreciate knowing to play the guitar.

“All the girls will gather around you in the dorm as you’re playing some beautiful song — and I promise you – they all will be falling in love with you.”

His image was more Peter, Paul, and Mary than Van Halen, but even so, as a twelve year old, I had little interest in girls “loving me.”  I quit my guitar lessons.  My guitar still sits in my room in Flushing, years later, leaning against the closet.

Giving up the guitar was probably the dumbest, stupidest thing I ever did in all my life.   In my Columbia College dorm, I had an ugly neighbor who used to have sex all the time with the most gorgeous girls, all because he would play Springsteen songs for them on his guitar, melting their hearts right into his bed.  I once tried to impress a sophomore girl by playing the “Theme from Star Wars” on my clarinet, but it just didn’t have the same effect.

I love my guitar story.  But now it is as good as dead.  Thank you, David Sedaris!    I know I could get in trouble with the gay community for saying this — but I hate your guts!

After reading this second story, I spit out my green tea and ran to the bookshelf.  My goal:  to skim through every essay that David  Sedaris has ever published.   My biggest fear as a writer is being told that “someone already wrote something exactly like you just did.”

Luckily, my next post is safe — a terrific autobiographical slice of life that really happened to me.  Thank God David Sedaris never wrote an essay about his experience going out to sea to kill a giant whale.  You’re going to love this story.

58 Comments

  1. I am somewhat of a speed reader and while on travel I will often read whole books in Barnes and Noble or Borders or Books A Million. I am surprised they let me in the store, I don’t even buy the coffee.

  2. He’s clearly in league with the devil. Either that or David Copperfield. I mean, how does he get the cigarette smoke to pour out of the top of his nose when the cigarette’s perched on top of his ear?!?
    (And note I was very careful not to use English slang for cigarettes in this context!)

  3. Neil – David Sedaris still rocks. You will note as you read more of his prose that it can be uneven. I absolutely love Holidays on Ice, especially the review of the elementary school Christmas pageant. His latest essay collection, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” includes a few poignant essays.

    I love the man, I even have his autograph in my office (one of my students got it for me at one of his readings, which I couldn’t attend.)

  4. 1) I have some socializing planned. What if David Sedaris comes up in a conversation and I have to say something smart?

    Neil, I also have some socializing planned…for next week. The only way I’m gearing up for that is that I’m reading people’s blogs so that I really, really know them before I meet them. Then I can drop references left, right and center.

  5. I feel the same way about you, Neil. You constantly ruin all my hilarious stories about my misadventures with my separated wife Sophia.

  6. This post was truly hilarious. I keep pretending I didn’t see the part about reading the book for free at Barnes & Noble. As someone who works part-time as a “librarian” (or so people seem to think) at one of those soul-sucking stores, I’ll just choose to believe you at least put it back : )

  7. *Snort*

    I went to a reading of his at UC Irvine a handful of years back. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to finding the picture we took with him and the copy of Barrel Fever that he signed for me.

    My favorite essay from Me Talk Pretty One Day is about his French class discussing Easter. It’s really hilarious. I also love stories about his family, particularly the one called The Youth in Asia.

    Now you’re making me want to reread everything I have and I have to get ready for school!

  8. I’ll tell David that you hate him. I’ve met the guy before and he’s actually quite cool. Amazing to think that all this shit actually happened to him and his sister (Amy, who is hilarious, as well).

    As for “All the girls will gather around you in the dorm as you’re playing some beautiful song — and I promise you – they all will be falling in love with you”… was your dad fixated on Animal House? I think maybe you should have spited him by taking the ugly guy’s guitar and going Bluto Blutarski on it.

  9. Don’t get me started on David Sedaris. Brilliant writer and constantly stealing bits of my life and writing about them better than me. Like my living in Paris and seeing 108 movies during the course of one school year and dealing with scary French teachers and clinically insane family members. On the other hand, it can only help us in the end since agents and publishers are incapable of understanding anything new–I plan on pitching myself as the “Jewish, straight David Sedaris.” (I called it first!)

  10. Fabulous post. As always, Neil.

  11. So…wait. We’re you also a Christmas Elf at Macy’s? ‘Cuz that would be really creepy. Not the striking similarites…just the fact that you we’re an elf.

  12. Yeah, he makes me bitter, too. I could really resentful if I weren’t always laughing so damned hard. My favorite is the one about the 6 or 8 black men. It always kills me.

  13. ACK – I LOVE David Sedaris and have a mad crush on him!! In fact, I’m stalking him to come to my half-birthday party (he and I share nearly the same birthday) – you can read my embarrassing confession here:

    http://tinyurl.com/h4227

  14. sedaris has become cliche in my opinion. (good for him, i guess, he’s probably single-handedly responsible for the revival of the personal essay as a form of publishable writing) some of his stuff is good, some is completely self-indulgent, but i guess that’s the nature of the beast. i saw him do a “reading” on letterman a few months ago. i was proud of letterman for providing such a varied broadcast. now, he is a man to love. anyway…the lisp/juice story is funny. there was a kid at camp who everyone called “fugar” because he couldn’t say “sugar.” it stuck with him through adulthood.

  15. “Sucked Some Sailor’s Salami. Or something like that.”

    That is my favorite line. LOL.

    Sedaris is one of my favorites. But then again, so are you. 😉

  16. Actually, the really funny one is his sister, Amy Sedaris…The short lived t.v. show: Strangers with Candy…she and Stephen Colbert…Brilliant.

  17. I agree with Ms. Sizzle. You both are great with the humorous personal essay. I guess that’s why I own almost all his books and visit your blog all the time. I guess Sedaris might have made a few cents off me, and that adds up to a few dollars from all your readers, so why are you still giving it out for free?

  18. I vote you challenge him to some sort of ultimate fighting match and determine who gets ownership of the right to tell those stories.

  19. I second Carly. But not fighting match, you should challenge him to a battle of wits followed by a verbal duel and as grand finale pin him down with an extemporaneous skit. I do love David Sedaris though but I also love your writing too. So there you go.

  20. never heard of the guy, or barnes and noble for that matter.

  21. I’ve heard many a rave for Dave, but I’ve never read him (and you know that’s not ‘cuz I haven’t been reading).

    But Juice… now that’s a kickass nickname despite its inauspicious origins.

  22. You know, I read thith entire potht with a lithp.

    Thankth!
    It’th fabulouth!!
    ~L.

  23. I have met THE David Sedaris and he is awesome (although he told me I have a fucked up name). Maybe look at it this way: even though he’s messing up all your ideas as a writer, at least the same shite happened to him so maybe you are, in fact, normal?

  24. What i want to know if Mrs E.Kramer ever demanded her money back from that fraud speech therapist? The problem was corrected by physical orthodontic device and not some gimmicky speech exercises; clear case of emotional blackmailing (parents), cruelty to children(you and Rob) and general incompetency on the part of the practitioner.
    May be it’s not too late yet and you can become independently rich on those doctor malpractice payments and devote all your time to blog-writing, instead of short gulps free from job search?

  25. You should sue him, really. How DARE he publish this sort of thing before you get the chance. Frankly, I’m enraged.

  26. ugh – I hated going to “speech” classes. I do not lisp, but I talk at an extremely rapid pace – all it was for me was 30 minutes of some woman telling me to “slow down!”

    I think a battle of wits between you and Sedaris would be the ultimate in hilarity!

  27. Kevin — “I’ll tell David…” You know him as David…?

    Danny — You may have called it first, but two is bigger than one!.

    Trix — No, I was never an elf. But my father was Santa Claus.

    Carly — He would kill me in any verbal duel. And probably in a physical one, too. Look how he has that cigarette in his ear like a real tough guy. He’d kick my butt. I bet you he even knows karate.

    Laura — In his story, it is insinuated that those kids with lisps will grow up gay. Has this ever been proven by science?

    Tatyana — Unfortunately, there was no money involved. This happened in my public school in Queens, P.S. 154. I really did have to leave class once a week for speech class — and it was a little embarrassing. I wonder if they still have these speech classes in public schools?

  28. When I was little I spoke with a lisp too. Nasty side effect of bashing out my front teeth on the kitchen table. Try saying “Jesus loves me” with a lisp. That right there can mess a kid up.

  29. So what?! When you’re born and the doctor spanks your bottom… that’s the first and only original thing you’ll ever say.

    And I didn’t even come up with that. Someone told it to me.

  30. Not one person mentioned the last paragraph with my Moby Dick gag. Is it unclear? Can someone rewrite it for me? I bet you David Sedaris would have brought the house down with that line!

  31. David Sedaris ruined my blog, too, but in a different way. I read his books, and thought, I can do that. I have funny stories and crazy relatives. This guy makes millions. I’m gonna do the same thing! It didn’t take too long before I realized that what David Sedaris does is REALLY FUCKING HARD and that no, I can’t do what he does. He’s a genius and I’m a bored housewife with a blog.

  32. And, oh yeah, I totally got and loved the Moby Dick line. 🙂

  33. Don’t worry, Neil, unless you, too, went through a phase when you took tons of drugs and did performance art– aw, man! Another story bites the dust.

    (Oh, and I got the Moby Dick line, too.)

  34. Thank you for getting the Moby Dick reference. There’s nothing worse than a joke told poorly.

  35. I *heart* David Sedaris. That book was awesome.

    So, you didn’t learn to play the guitar and woo women with your mad music skillz. At least you have your blog with which to woo the ladies, and it reaches a greater population than the sound of a guitar.

    (I, too, got the Moby Dick joke…though now that I typed the word “dick” I’m trying to hold in a joke of my own.)

  36. Never heard about this guy, not because I don’t read but maybe he doesn’t interest the people here enough to be sold or something…

    Am a book worm, my mum says that’s why I have poor sight… might be… I sometimes read till four in the morning non-stop… It’s incurable!

    I don’t know about David but Neil is one funny guy, ever read him?!

    Fitèna

  37. This is why I love you. I laugh out loud. You know that startled laugh when you are not expecting ‘the funny’?

  38. if you’re setting aside time for “dancing with the stars”, it sounds like you’re plenty “sensitive” already.

  39. yeahyeahyeah, Moby Dick the Whale.
    Got it, don’t worry, just can’t stand the book: assigned reading in 6th grade in “nature lovers” series, right after Turgenev’s “The hunter’s notes”. Residual aches.

    As to “there were no money involved”-that’s where you’re wrong. Didn’t your parents pay taxes to NY State and City? They did funded your PS 154 education; you have a case against 1) NYC School Board and 2) The Teacher’s Union.

    Good luck in collecting!

    (Being an altruist mood, I’ll accept just a dinner invitation for the idea)

  40. Clearly, you are experiencing your first pangs of Sedaris Envy. It happens to all sensitive men at some point. Don’t worry, though. We all love you still.

  41. Neil — you write better than Sedaris, so you’re safe. 🙂

    NJ

  42. Nancy — I flutter my eyelashes in false modesty to an obvious falsehood, but a flattering one… so that’s how it feels to be a woman always complimented by a man… when you know it ain’t true, but you love it anyway…

  43. Yeah, that David Sedaris ruins EVERYTHING for EVERYONE.

  44. Check out his art essay in the New Yorker this week — it’s hilarious.

    Just hoping to dash another of your dreams for you . . .

    *mwah*

  45. Let’s see — imagine I was running this blog like a reality show, and I had to eliminate one blogger from my blogroll each week. Who would it be this week? The one who writes “you are better than David Sedaris?” Or the one who keeps on saying how hilarious this OTHER writer is? Michelle?

  46. I have to agree with Carly. Arm wrestling is a good way to settle it I think. And? This post was brilliant!

  47. David Sedaris is one of my all-time favorite writers…he’s just as funny in person as he is in his books. Obviously, I consider him a kindred spirit owing to his sympathy to the plight of being an American francophile…

  48. Here I am minding my own business doing a search on David Sedaris, because, well, I needed some blog inspiration, and then come to find out… stealing from him wouldn’t be kosher. Oh well….. at least I found you.

  49. Your funniest post! When I told my daughter about your blog I said that you were as funny as David Sedaris. In our house that is the ultimate compliment.

  50. I loved this post. I think David Sedaris is just a genius when it comes to telling his stories. I mean, will you ever look at elves in department stores at Christmas time the same EVER AGAIN?!?

    I really love listening to ‘This American Life’ because Ira Glass found David and Ira has some of the most amazing & interesting stories & guests ever. I will wait for your post on how you hate Ira’s guts too.

  51. I am saving this blog into my favorites.

  52. I love Dave Sedaris, love this Blog…

  53. “Sucked Some Sailor’s Salami” – hahahaha! I’m enjoying your brilliant wit. Thanks!

  54. Neil

    Great blog, awesome post, and I really liked your humor and writing style.

    I too am a Sedaris’ fan…he is one of the few that can make me bust a gut over and over and over!

    I just started a blog two weeks ago but today’s is a smart (or smarting) story about finding crap in a swimsuit in a department store. check it out.

    I’ll be reading.

  55. I was visiting Chicago and went to a birthday party of a publisher and i told him i was writing a book about my childhood in Cuba and growing up Gay in the USA. He picked up “When you are engulfed in flames”, and gave it to me. Here is someone you should get to know when writing non fiction. David has been my inspiration to keep on writing and now am adicted to Sedaris but i gave up smoking. LOL.

  56. Hey Neil – I’m still relatively new to the whole blogging thing myself but I must say that David Sedaris was one of my inspirations. Tucker Max and Chelsea Handler also got me pretty excited about blogging. After reading their books I realised I don’t have to start by writing a novel, I can just write lots of short stories in a blog at first. Far less overwhelming!

    Anyway, I love Sedaris. I found your blog to be pretty entertaining as well, very funny and dry humour (my preference). Keep it up. I’ll definitely be back…

    -Meghan

  57. This is funny. By the way, I currently LIVE in Flushing, the place were your guitar is.

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