cover image Theft by Finding: Diaries, 1977–2002

Theft by Finding: Diaries, 1977–2002

David Sedaris. Little, Brown, $28 (560p) ISBN 978-0-316-15472-7

This American Life and New Yorker humorist Sedaris (Naked) displays the raw material for his celebrated essays with these scintillating excerpts from his personal journals. Sedaris collects entries stretching back to his penniless salad days working odd jobs (apple picker, construction worker, house cleaner, a now-famous stint as a Christmas elf), hanging out at the International House of Pancakes and wrestling half-heartedly with drink and drugs. He moves on to his breakthrough as a memoirist and playwright and then to later embroilments and obsessions, including a fixation on feeding flies to pet spiders. Here as elsewhere, Sedaris is a latter-day Charlie Chaplin: droll, put-upon but not innocent, and besieged by all sorts of obstreperous or menacing folks. The frequent appearance of colorful weirdos spouting pithy dialogue may strike some readers as unlikely to be entirely true. But Sedaris’s storytelling, even in diary jottings, is so consistently well-crafted and hilarious that few will care whether it’s embroidered. (May)