David Sedaris is My Bitch/Hero

So it turns out that I have a book blog and I haven’t posted anything on it in about six months. Yup. I think I passed the embarrassed stage about three months ago, now I just look at this blog fondly as a thing of the past. Get all nostalgic and sh*t about that time when I used to post more than once a week; it’s great. ANYHOW.

I recently (two months ago) went to a David Sedaris event. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as it was a ticketed event in a concert hall (wasn’t cheap) and it was titled ‘An Evening with David Sedaris’. Was he going to do some stand-up, read from his new book, mingle with his fans in a room of swirling cognacs? Turns out that is exactly what the evening was (minus the cognac).

I don’t remember the last time I had such a good time. So much so that I stopped feeling resentful about the money I had spent to go and see him. I laughed so hard throughout the evening, listening to David (we’re totally on first name terms now) recounting stories and reading diary entries in his surprisingly high pitched voice. I, honestly, fell in love with the man.

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The evening was coming to a close and David said he’d be outside signing books for a short while. Which reminded him of a time when a young guy came to one of his events and said his mum was a huge fan of David’s and would he mind writing something outrageous in her copy of one of his books. Naturally, David wrote ‘Your son left teeth marks on my dick’. HAHAHA. The boy was horrified.

No photographs were allowed, but I was feeling rebellious...

No photographs were allowed, but I was feeling rebellious…

My friend (whom I had very kindly introduced to the world of Sedaris) and I decided to get our books signed. The queue wasn’t moving particularly fast as some fans had his entire backlist with them that they wanted specially signed. Double sigh. So our moment finally came and my friend was nervous, which then made me nervous, which normally results in me talking too fast and laughing too hard at people’s jokes. And overcompensating for my quiet friend.

I asked David to write something outrageous in mine, and as I’m black, I wanted him to write something that was inappropriate and racist. He started telling me a story about a dog shelter run by some elderly people. Long story short, there was an important dinner being held and the words ‘black bitch’ were unknowingly thrown around in reference to a dog they wanted to move out of the shelter. This got us to the following inscription in my book:

wpid-20140327_220254.jpgFollowed by this in my friend’s:

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I have to say, it was funny how, in a matter of minutes, he picked up on the dynamics of the relationship between me and my friend.

We talked to him some more and then made our exit. I was really impressed with how he took the time to speak to each person in that very long line, not the usual “Thanks for coming” type sh*t, but genuine conversation. If ever you get a chance to go to one of his readings, I highly recommend you do.

Weird Things Customers say in Bookshops.

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There are a lot of strange people in this world. Some of them make into bookshops and ask silly questions. Here are a selection of the most ‘omg-are-you-serious?’ questions and comments.

CUSTOMER: Did they make a film edition of the Bible when The Passion of the Christ came out? You know, the text of the Bible, but with Mel Gibson on the front cover?

 

CUSTOMER: Do you have an LGBT fiction section?

BOOKSELLER: We don’t have a specific section, but we do have LGBT literature – Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson etc Which author were you looking for?

CUSTOMER: Don’t worry, I’ll have a look through the fiction section – thanks for your help.

OTHER CUSTOMER: Sorry, did I hear you right? Did you just say that all the homosexual books are in with the normal fiction?

BOOKSELLER: All our fiction is one section.

(Other Customer looks suspiciously at the book she’s holding and slides it back on the shelf)

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CUSTOMER (pondering): How much would a signed copy of the Bible be worth?

BOOKSELLER: Signed by whom?

CUSTOMER: Well…I don’t know. Not God, obviously. (Nervous laugh.) That would be silly…wouldn’t it?

 

CUSTOMER: Pride and Prejudice was published a long time ago, right?

BOOKSELLER: Yep.

CUSTOMER: I thought so. Colin Firth’s looking really good for his age, then.

 

WOMAN (holding a copy of a Weight Watchers book in one hand, and The Hunger Games in the other): Which of these diet books would you recommend most?

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CUSTOMER (to her friend): What about this book? (holds up a copy of The Hobbit).

CUSTOMER: No. I don’t want to read that. It’ll spoil the film.

 

CUSTOMER: Do you have audiobooks on sign language?

 

CUSTOMER: I’d like to buy a book for my wife.

BOOKSELLER: Sure, what sort of book?

CUSTOMER: I don’t know. Something…pink? Women like pink stuff, right?

 

CUSTOMER: Urgh. Shakespeare. He’s everywhere, isn’t he? You can’t escape him. I wish he’d do us all a favour and just die already.

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CUSTOMER: I’m looking for the fourth Fifty Shades of Grey book.

BOOKSELLER: There are only three in the series.

CUSTOMER: No, there are four. I saw it in another shop yesterday. It’s really big. It’s called Fifty Shades Trilogy.

BOOKSELLER: …That’s the box set.

 

CUSTOMER: Do you have a copy of Atonement? But not the film cover, please. Keira Knightley’s neck makes me want to punch things.

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The Quarter Life Crisis: How should a young woman live now?; a Contemplation.

I often wonder if everyone else is going through their 20s like I am. In a fog of confusion, laced with a hope that one day soon your life will change into one of modern fairy tales: a deliciously quirky, non-traditional happily ever after. The internet is filled with these made up lists of ways to live a happy and fulfilled life, yet I wonder how many of us actually achieve anything close to that. We still feel like we’re waiting for our ‘real’ life to begin. Someone failed to remind us that it had indeed started 27* years ago (*insert your own age as appropriate). What’s funny (or maybe even not so funny) is that we’re not quite able to put a finger onto what it is we do want, all we know is that it isn’t ‘this’.

TWELVE by Vanessa Jones

TWELVE by Vanessa Jones

I stumbled upon Vanessa Jones’s book, ‘Twelve’, in my favourite charity bookstore, and it was the tag line that instantly caught my eye: ‘How should a young woman live now?‘ This is something that’s currently being discussed in the media through the publication of Sheila Heti’s ‘How Should a Person Be?’ and also through that TV show, ‘Girls’. Though the book is over 10 years old and could be described as being no longer relevant, I was curious to see how much life has changed for young women (actually, young people in general) since, if indeed it has at all. I found that it hasn’t.

Lily is the central character of ‘Twelve’, leading a life that she needs ‘constant respite from’. Her cyclical life of weekend-waiting depicts a restlessness that we all have, or at least I think we have. It is insatiable. It’s as though we were promised something, a multi-tasking life where you can have it all; a life that has actually turned out to be unattainable.

All from my Pinterest

All from my Pinterest

I believe this period of unrest in your 20s, where you’re plagued by inaction and a lack of motivation, is called a Quarter Life Crisis. Or just laziness. Whichever term suits you best.

This would be me in the film. And I'd be wearing this dress throughout. Source: justjared.com

This would be me in the film. And I’d be wearing this dress throughout.
Source: justjared.com

I panic about my age more often than I should or is probably healthy. With the threat of 30 looming over me like a baby buggy armed with a breast pump, at this point in my life, most of my conversations are about this point in my life. In the movie version of my life I’d be immaculately turned out at all times, have all my sh*t sorted out, live in an amazing apartment that I own (despite working in a creative industry where you’re supposed to be grateful to work for a pittance of a ‘salary’), with a wonderfully intelligent boyfriend who just happens to look like a model, and a group of hilarious friends that would make even Carrie Bradshaw squirm with envy. And I’d be played by Kerry Washington. Naturally.

The reality is pretty much the opposite of the above. I have kinda funny friends; but that’s about it. So, like Lily and her friends Josh, Edward and Mary, I live in a state of perpetual confusion. Lily points out that we are at that stage of our lives when ‘we have almost completely let go of our dreams into the i-wish abyss. But not quite. Another year perhaps, two? At most five.’ There’s still this tiny window of hope that our dreams may miraculously come true, but it’s a very small window that reduces in size with each passing year.

This book is about nothing. Yet at the same time it’s about everything. About all those seemingly pointless but nevertheless heavy thoughts that are rooted in your mind. Vanessa Jones is very gifted at articulating the things those of us in our late 20s feel but have difficulty vocalising. For example, in the book, after much agonising, Lily and Josh decide to go to a house party, with Lily quickly admitting that ‘Parties and clubs and bars, they’re always incredibly exciting in advance, and such a good idea afterwards. But while you’re actually there? Somehow they make coming home such a relief.’

The truth of this remark is almost blinding. I’ve reached that age where going out clubbing is about as enjoyable as a pap smear yet I convince myself to do it again out of a feeling of obligation because these are things that ‘young people’ do: grind up against strangers in a dark, sweaty room. You allow yourself to briefly forget how tedious it was the last time and get yourself excited about the potential of the evening only to find yourself inevitably sighing with relief when you eventually make it back to your bed. It dawns on Mary that perhaps she’s ‘never been in the mood. Perhaps it has all just been an effort of will.’ Lily rightfully says: ‘It’s so solitary this. It’s not socialising at all.’

A contemplation on life in your 20s would not be complete without a mention of our love lives:

I have what most people have, the reason most people wish for love but which is, ironically, love’s biggest barrier: a longing to get, via somebody else, a different life.’

Sorry to be a mood-killer, but this notion of love being a ticket to a different life is what most people secretly hope for, even if they never say it. We place our happiness in someone else’s lap hoping they’ll look after it on our behalf. Feed it, water it when necessary. Take it out for walks on occasion. Maybe even have sex with it.

But before we get to the whole ‘love’ part, there is the self-induced punishment that is called ‘dating’. My God. Is it possible to be this jaded? We just go through the motions, and it’s all about tactics, strategies and risk; a business proposal. Lily’s friend Edward and his girlfriend Anna, take it in turns to chase one another, to be the interested party; reaffirming that old adage: ‘As soon as I haven’t got you, I want you, as soon as I have you, I can no longer desire you’.

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Lily goes on a date with a guy called Colin who runs after her in a train station and gives her a piece of paper with his number on it. Initially she’s flattered, but doesn’t want to call him. But then she thinks, what would be the point of this incident if, after being asked what happened next, she replied with ‘Nothing’? Life isn’t simply handed to us, ‘memories are things you have to earn.’ So when Lilly decides to ‘earn’ this memory, she goes on a date with Colin and has a perfectly good time with him. But then two weeks pass by and she doesn’t hear from him at all. In true fashion:

‘for those two weeks I was not worth knowing. If I was pretty, it was only from afar; if I was interesting , it didn’t extend beyond an afternoon; if I was funny, not funny enough; if I was kind, so what? None of these things merited more than just one kiss from Colin.’

It’s funny how someone we don’t even know that well can define the parameters within which we define ourselves. We make them ‘[custodians of our personalities]’. But then Lily, like most people her/our age is an over-thinker. And over-thinking soon turns into negativity. This negativity tends to disappear as soon as the phone rings again, and we tend to start playing our part, again, the role we’ve always played in this plot. We go through the motions, dissatisfied because we realise that what used to keep us content when we were younger, no longer does the trick: ‘Luxury turns right turns given turns necessity. When I was younger I could have moved in with someone who lived in a barrel of water, but I have definite needs now, definite edges.’ We make our excuses and exit the stage, back to looking for another small part in what will likely be the same play. This is romance today.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

And, of course, there’s also work. Stuck in an office job where she clock-watches in anticipation of the weekend, Lily comes to learn that the weekend is equally as disappointing as the week because it never amounts to anything: ‘The weekend becomes the week again. The excitement never manifests.’ Like her, we watch as our general joie de vivre is sucked out of us with each passing minute of the office clock. Discussing budgets and margins we betray the ambition of our youth and without realising, slowly switch from being anti-establishment and referring to the company as ‘they’ to conforming and referring to them as ‘we’ and their actions as ‘our’. They say it’s called growing up.

Tired of this, Lily’s friend Mary decides to spend time outside of the city, at a dead relative’s barn-house, and wonders if we don’t all live in London*(insert NY, LA, Paris or any other major metropolis that is crowdedly lonely) because we don’t have the imagination not to. Eek!, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of laziness. Perhaps Big City dreams are all cliche and no substance now? Or worse still, we’re too lazy to create that substance; it’s more work than we’d anticipated.

The emptiness of City Life

The emptiness of City Life

So you’d be forgiven for thinking that those experiencing a Quarter Life Crisis are just miserable, self-absorbed and annoying, so introverted and irritatingly analytical of all life’s disappointments and failings. Josh reprimands Lily, wanting to make her see that she is, perhaps, the biggest obstacle to her own happiness:

‘But you spend your whole time looking for something new to excite you without ever building on what you’ve got. You want answers when you don’t even know what the question is. You’re after an easy fix.’

– Is this what is essentially wrong with us? Are we searching for something that doesn’t exist? Something that has been created through our mindlessly conscious absorption of popular culture, an amalgamation of untruths? There are no answers in ‘Twelve’ in the same way that there are no answers in life. I don’t mean to put an overtly negative spin on things, but maybe these days we’re too distracted to be happy. Or perhaps we have too much information to be happy. The more we know, the less we are satisfied. As they say, ignorance is bliss. If you were to refute this and say that knowledge only fuels our imagination, and that we are only limited by this imagination, well, Josh will tell you: ‘Some people say that the human imagination is limitless, but try conceiving a colour that doesn’t exist and you’ll see how wrong they are.’ (I’ve tried this and, yes, it is indeed impossible). I’m surprised that Vanessa Jones isn’t more of a household name as her articulation of obscure truths is often mesmerising in this book:

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So do I recommend you read ‘Twelve’? Yes, if only to know that you are not alone in your constant dissatisfaction and that your obsessive questioning of all this meaninglessness is shared. ‘Then, in the end, all times become ‘that time’, one day this time will be no more important than that time is now.’ – In the end, none of this matters. As with everything, time allows these moments of seeming significance to fade into obscure insignificance: ‘But perhaps that’s what she’s learnt about the end, it’s meaningless until you’ve got there. And sometimes even then.’ And perhaps, like this book suggests, for people like me, it’s a process of elimination. A long process that will eventually result in the right course. So maybe we should all just try to be insanely happy in the mean time. Like this girl:

Source: www.pickthebrain.com

Source: http://www.pickthebrain.com
Edited by 1shelflife.wordpress.com

Failing that:

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Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris; a Book Review

I finally got round to reading a book by David Sedaris and I think I’m now a bit of a convert. He is funny. That’s all there is to it. It’s a very subtle, arrogant and perhaps even slightly sinister type of humour; definitely dark, but funny nonetheless.

This is a collection of random short stories, scenes from his childhood growing up in a quirkily dysfunctional family and then later, how this family interacts and functions in the present day. As odd as it may sound, he writes with a subtle hilariousness, and it’s irresistible. It’s not the obvious slapstick kind of humour, but more of a ‘this is somewhat inappropriate and probably politically incorrect, but I’m gonna say it, and it doesn’t stop it from being funny’ kind of humour.

The book opens with a story (‘Us and Them‘) about the Tomkeys, a family who lived on David’s street growing up and who didn’t believe in TV and therefore did not own one. David believed this to be a handicap that prevented the family from being able to function normally, hence why the Tomkeys were away on Halloween weekend and thought it ok for trick-or-treating to take place on another day:

Asking for candy on Halloween was called trick-or-treating, but asking for candy on November first was called begging, and it made people uncomfortable. This was one of those things you were supposed to learn simply by being alive, and it angered me that the Tomkeys did not understand it.’

What I’ve come to realise makes David Sedaris so popular is that you can relate to him. While I’m not a gay man who’s up in the early hours of the morning trying to drown a mouse in a bucket, with a sister who retrieves and eats food from the trash, living in the French countryside, seeing all my real estate needs met through Anne Frank’s attic (mentally redecorating the space); I see a lot of his thought process in me. I find I can relate to the minute details as it’s in the observation of the little quirks in human behaviour and motivations that Sedaris excels.

In the story entitled ‘The End of the Affair‘, Sedaris goes to see the movie of the same name with his partner and explains why seeing romance on the big screen can make him feel insecure in his own relationship as he feels it reminds his partner that he has other options. This bit in particular made me chuckle:

Hugh and I have been together for so long that in order to arouse extraordinary passion, we need to engage in physical combat. Once, he hit me on the back of the head with a broken wineglass, and I fell to the floor pretending to be unconscious. That was romantic, or would have been had he rushed to my side rather than stepping over my body to fetch the dustpan.’

He captures the essence of his characters so well (like the man whose house he goes to clean but who unfortunately mistakes him for someone from the erotic house cleaning service he has also booked an appointment with) with alarmingly peculiar details that I can’t believe are actually real. As corny as it sounds, however, underneath all the funny and in the midst of all the detail is genuine love, warmth and concern.

I kind of understand why Augusten Burroughs is compared to him a lot. They are scarily similar: both gay, both have quirky/eccentric families, and both have this hilarious arrogance to their humour. I don’t think I’m doing this book much justice in this review, but it’s really difficult to pull out funny bits as it has to be understood within the framework and context of the entire story. While there are admittedly some stories in this collection that I wasn’t too keen on, and that weren’t particularly memorable, I think the collection overall is worth a read. Especially if, like me, you’ve never read any Sedaris before and have even a remote sense of humour.

Pressed Freshly

To say I was excited to be freshly pressed today would be a bit of an understatement. It felt like Christmas and front row seats at a Backstreet Boy concert all rolled into one (as sad as that sounds)!

I have to say that although this image is funny, it genuinely disturbs me. Where are her parents?!

Though I started this blog a few months ago, it’s only last month that I started to commit myself to it, so I’m really thrilled (my statistics graph is hilarious). Thank you to WordPress and to my little group of followers from before. Hello to all you new ones, I promise you’ll never hear me mention the Backstreet Boys again 🙂