The buzz of raucous applause reverberated through the Mainstage Theatre at the University at Buffalo on Oct. 18 as American memoirist David Sedaris welcomed local students and his many admirers to a rollicking reading of his humorous, witty writings.
Sedaris treated his guests to various selections from his renowned works on this stop of his national book tour, opening the night with an essay published in the British newspaper, The Guardian. The piece whimsically mused on the obscene disrepair and overwhelming presence of fecal matter that he spotted during his travels in China.
Afterward, Sedaris noted the many objections of a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, who criticized Sedaris for coming off as racist and questioned why his work didn't touch on more pressing issues such as Chinese medicine. "Because I'm interested in turds," said Sedaris as the audience erupted into laughter.
During the 90-minute reading, Sedaris also shared his unpublished work, "'Atta Boy," which recounts how his shamelessly pants-less father tormented a portly neighborhood kid, who had called Sedaris' mother "a not-so-nice word," by feeding him excessive amounts of ice cream.
He also read excerpts from his personal diary from the past two years. The most recent entry was from the day before and mocked a dreadlocked activist in Burlington, Vt. who tried to start an absurdly out-of-place "Occupy Wall Street" march on a local college campus.
Toward the end of the reading, Sedaris took the time to personally recommend one of his contemporaries, Peter Hessler. After reading a brief excerpt from Hessler's book River Town, which recounted his experience working as a Peace Corps volunteer in China, Sedaris commended the fellow world traveler on his description of the work that it takes to assimilate int¬o a foreign culture. According to Sedaris, Hessler conveyed that ultimate feeling when "a veil lifts and the world becomes new to you."
Sedaris then welcomed questions from the audience about his creative process of writing stories while living overseas. He also discussed his most recent work, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a collection of fables adapted from real-life anecdotes personifying animals.
Once the crowd emerged from the Mainstage Theatre, Sedaris greeted fans outside the auditorium to sign copies of his critically-acclaimed memoirs, including Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and When You Are Engulfed in Flames.