By Walter Hickey
David Sedaris, a well known writer and contributor to National Public Radio, came to the College of William and Mary Bookstore last Friday to promote his latest book, “Squirrel Meets Chipmunk: A Modern Bestiary.” A collection of short stories with animals as protagonists, the book describes the animals’ modern troubles which engage a housefly dealing with classism to a chipmunk’s family’s response to her inter-species relationship with a squirrel.
The crowd, which packed into the cafe section of the bookstore, was composed of fans who had just discovered Sedaris to those who first fell in love with his work after his NPR debut with “The SantaLand Diaries” in 1992.
“I really enjoy David Sedaris, especially hearing him in person,” English professor Susanne Hagadorn, who attended the reading, said. “I remember when I first heard his “SantaLand Diaries” on NPR, and I thought it was the most screamingly funny thing that I had ever heard on the radio. Since then I’ve read a number of his books and I’m delighted to hear him live.”
Sedaris read two stories to the crowd, one from the book itself and one a bonus story available only on the audiobook. He then read entries from his diary, mentioning that at each stop he would ask each person who wanted their book signed to tell him a joke. The funniest he’s heard yet?
“What’s the last thing you want to hear when you’re blowing Willy Nelson?” Sedaris said. “I’m not Willy Nelson.”
He then held a quick question and answer session, and segued into the book signing.
Some arrived half an hour early to snag premium seats in the front row. Others ambled in with no reservations and heard him from the cafe. Most of the guests seemed willing to brave a formidable line to meet the man himself. College librarian Debbie Weiss, along with many students, community members and faculty, was willing to wait.
“I’m just excited about seeing him,” Weiss said.
Some were a bit bolder.
“He’s like the new Truman Capote” Christina Tremarco ’13 said.
Devina Parnett, a Williamsburg resident, was there with her daughter, but couldn’t stay for the whole signing. However, she had brought a delicious gift for Sedaris: spider cupcakes.
“I’ve been a longtime fan of David Sedaris, and I read David Sedaris to my children while they were growing up and now they are crazier than I am,” Parnett said. “As evidenced by spider cupcakes and our guerilla delivery of them.”
Parnett’s daughter Sasha Reagan elaborated.
“Well, I’ve read every one of David Sedaris’s books and one of the stories that I love is the one about when he’s watching the news with his family,” Reagan said. “If a building is on fire, his mom always said ‘I hope no people were hurt.’ and his sister goes ‘I hope no dogs were hurt!’ and he’s always like ‘I hope no spiders were hurt’ because when he and his boyfriend went to France he would watch the spiders in the attic and name them. His sister Amy makes cupcakes in a bakery in New York, so I thought I’d mix Amy’s cupcakes with his spiders.”
The line continued for around three hours, and Sedaris remained until the last book was signed, often making a quick personal sketch in a book or guessing the guest’s horoscope. Aside from giving him spider cupcakes, people told him their jokes, told him how much they enjoyed his stories, and in one case even played with a song on the ukulele. It became clear that people in Colonial Williamburg like David Sedaris. But what does Sedaris think of Colonial Williamsburg?
“It was quaint and pretty,” he said. “I wondered, ‘Why can’t all towns look like this?’ But then I saw