David Sedaris author photo Credit Ingrid Christie
Credit: Ingrid Christie


The beauty of David Sedaris’ personality — and what keeps his readers come back for best-selling book after best-selling book — is his unwavering dedication to a helter-skelter train of thought. His latest essay collection, Calypso, contains his musings on everything from air travel etiquette to tanning to Japanese fashion. It’s his most personal and open book yet, shedding light on his late sister’s struggle with mental health, his mother’s addiction, and his own experiences with the legalization of gay marriage, but it still finds plenty of room for laughs.

It’s nearly impossible to page through Calypso without picking out dozens of his revelations, like the fact that the only perk about middle age is finally acquiring a guest room. Or that there’s no way Jesus could have been both tall and handsome. Or that the perfect pair of jeans is one that looks so worn that it may as well have been “pulled from the evidence rack at a murder trial.”

Sedaris is no different off the page. Ask him for his thoughts on Dickens and you’ll be treated to a delightful reflection on reading the Bible on death row. Those lucky enough to speak to him learn quickly they should sit down, shut up, and let his thoughts bubble up at random and awe-inspiring intervals. The same goes for writing anything about David Sedaris: It’s best to get the hell out of his way. He’s wearing pants from a murder trial, after all. Ahead, some life advice from America’s favorite essayist that you’d be foolish not to heed.

Classic literature is overrated

“I’ve never read any Dickens. Nothing. If people say, ‘I’m reading A Tale of Two Cities,’ I’ll nod thoughtfully. Not even thoughtfully, but like I’m reflecting on the first time I read it. And if I were locked in a bathroom, maybe I’d read it. Or if I was in prison. I’m saving it for one of those two occasions.”

So are some older works

“I’d also have to be in prison to read the Bible. Actually, I’d have to be on death row for me to read the Bible.”

Fashion is all about comfort

“I’ve been considering just wearing a caftan on my tour. The problem with a caftan is the men’s room. If you wanted to use the urinal in a caftan, you’d have to wear trousers underneath it, really. If you just had underpants on you’d have to pull all that stuff up. The good thing about a caftan is just covering up a lot of stuff you don’t want to deal with.”

There are pros and cons to luxury travel

“Because I travel so much, it’s much easier to do if you have a nice hotel. Generally speaking, if you have a lousy hotel you can probably come out of it with a story. But if you stay in a good hotel, you come out of it with your computer.”

Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others

“After that woman was sucked out the window, I was boarding a plane like a week later, and this woman said, ‘Do you mind, how about if you take the window and I take the aisle?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ll take the aisle because I asked for it.’ And she said, ‘To tell you the truth, I’m worried because that person was just sucked out of a plane, and what if that should happen a second time?’ And I said, ‘If it happens a second time, it’ll happen to you because I’m keeping my aisle seat.’”

Know your VIPs

“For as much as I travel, my plane’s never even come close to going down. When people tell me that they’re afraid of flying, I always suspect that they’re egotistical. I always say to them, ‘Oh, you’re so important that the plane is gonna go down?’ If the plane went down because an important person was on them, all my planes would go down.”

Use caution before you clean up trash on the side of the road

“I was picking up trash by the side of the road in West Sussex and I found, well, it was like… a wax [sex toy]. It was a huge, lifelike purple penis that somebody had bitten the top off of.”

Just stop wearing skinny jeans

“As a grown-up, you don’t want to dress too young for yourself. There was a guy next to me on the plane yesterday and he was wearing a pair of skinny jeans, and he was too old. Now, I don’t think skinny jeans look good on anybody, but this guy was, I don’t know, late 40s? He was just too old for them. So I guess that’s a fear, is that you don’t want to be dressing to look like you’re desperate.”

The Brits love a good royal-family joke

“There was a joke that I was telling, that I had in my diary book, and it was about Princess Diana. It was that Princess Diana and Mother Theresa are in heaven and Mother Theresa is complaining, ‘It’s not fair, all I ever did was devote myself to the poor and suffering, all she did was dress up and go to parties, how come she has a halo and I don’t?’ And God says, ‘It’s not a halo, it’s a steering wheel.’ And my boyfriend said, ‘Don’t you dare read that in England.’ And I read that joke in America and people are going, ‘Ugh,’ like, ‘Now you’re going too far.’ And in England they howled with laughter.”

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