SINGAPORE – Paying to hear an author spend nearly an hour reading from his published works might seem like you aren’t getting your money’s worth.
But not when that man is David Sedaris.
For an hour at the Singapore Writers Festival on Saturday (Nov 3), the American essayist and master of satire regaled the crowd with funny observations about love, death and family life.
The sold-out show at the Victoria Theatre saw him read from Your English Is So Good, a semi-autobiographical essay from his latest collection Calypso (2018) whose narrator deviates from the usual script while talking to cashiers and hotel counter staff; The Ones That Got Away, a piece where he (unwisely) asks his partner Hugh Hamrick how many people he has slept with; and the darkly comic Just A Quick Email, from Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (2013), where a woman called Rhonda writes an e-mail to her paraplegic sister.
Asked by a member of the audience if he enjoyed reading his books out loud, Sedaris, whose recordings series on BBC Radio 4, Meet David Sedaris, involves him doing just that, said: “If I lost my voice, I might lose my will to write.”
“Reading out loud is really the laziest form of show business,” he added, to much laughter from the audience.
When he returns to his hotel room while on tour, he often re-writes his work based on the audience’s reactions. “I learn a lot from the audience. It’s actually me being paid to use the audience,” said Sedaris, who was speaking in Singapore for the first time.
The 61-year-old bestselling author’s books have been translated into 25 languages and there are more than 10 million copies in print.
Sedaris is nothing if not self-deprecating, recalling that there are people who think he is a woman when they hear him narrate his own audio books.
One teacher told him that she made her students listen to it, only to have one of them tell her: “I didn’t like it at all. Who I feel sorry for is that old lady.”
Writer Anita Thomas, who attended the talk, said: “What struck me is how quickly he answered the questions with acerbic wit. It was not so different from what he was reading.”
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