Acclaimed humorist and bestselling author David Sedaris kicked off programming at the 2022 U.S. Book Show to talk about travel, life on the road, and his upcoming book, Happy-Go-Lucky.
Sedaris's conversation with Katharine Myers, his publicist, demonstrated the same witty and trademark honesty readers are accustomed to. “I want to be able to choose which category of the bookstore I fall in,” he said, after Myers referred to him as a comedian. By referring to his work as comedy, the author argued, it saddles an essay that may touch upon other topics with potentially unfair expectations.
Fresh off a 44-city lecture tour, Sedaris said he feels right at home on the road after being waylaid during the pandemic. It helps with both his writing process and with making connections with his audience.
“I always take note of where the laughs are,” he said. Known for making conversation with every single reader at his events, no matter how long it takes to finish a signing, the author explains how “by asking people questions, you end up listening and finding out that there might be something to their story.”
After being asked if he is, as the title of his book suggests, a “happy” person, “I think I am,” he said. “I mean, maybe I’m not happy, but I don’t want to spread unhappiness. If you were to read my essays, though, you’d be like, gosh, that guy’s sour.”
Myers brought up a topic on the top of readers’ lists lately, social media and getting canceled, asking Sedaris what he thought it meant to be canceled if you aren’t on social media. “I don’t think my audience would even know it,” said Sedaris. The one area where he could see frustration and anger bubbling up among social media circles would be related to writing about something people don’t think he should write about. “I can’t imagine engaging in that,” he said. “Someone says something bad about you and your book, it’s none of my business.”
On the topic of writing off-topic, Myers pointed the conversation to topics he might never touch. Sedaris was quick to offer: “I don’t write about sex. It’s just never been my topic.” He went on to offer a humorous example, a would-be reader telling him they had an odd sexual encounter. “Maybe I’d write about that, because it would be fascinating,” he said, “but I’d never write about myself having sex.”
Sedaris travels so much—upwards of 175 days of the year, and sometimes around 200—that it requires a lot of coping mechanisms and routines, he said. For one, Sedaris is famously known for is walking. “Walking allows me to eat whatever I want,” he explained. He uses an Apple watch, and has meticulously kept track of his steps for thousands of days. “I just make the time.”
Being on the road, Sedaris values the possibility for stories—and they don't always come from five star hotels, either. “You always leave a crummy hotel with a story. Always. Stay in a crummy hotel and you leave with 50 stories.”